Hidden Grace Golf Club, Shenzhen - Eugenio Chacarra’s pre-tournament billing as one of the hot favorites was substantiated today when he took the halfway lead at 9 under following a 4-under 68 at the Volvo China Open.
The Spaniard leads by one from China’s Zhang Huilin, who won this event in 2020, and Chen Guxin, who fired rounds of 69 and 68 respectively at Hidden Grace Golf Club.
Australian Jack Thompson, winner of the Qualifying School back in January, had appeared on course to finish the day in front on 11 under with six to play but struggling with the fading light he bogeyed the fifth and eighth and made a double on nine – his last hole having started on 10.
He signed for a 70 to finish in a tie for fourth on seven under with American Andy Ogletree, the runaway leader of The International Series and Asian Tour Order of Merits, who took a step closer to wrapping up those titles early on after carding a 69, and his compatriot Paul Peterson, who returned the same score.
Chacarra won the St Andrews Bay Championship in August after a record 10-hole play-off against Matt Jones from Australia for his first win as a professional in a 72-hole strokeplay event and looks like being the man to catch this weekend.
He started his day on hole 10 and was three under after five before struggling through the transition with a bogey on 15 and double on 18, where he three-putted from five feet. However, he returned to his familiar attacking game on his homeward nine with birdies on two, six, seven and nine.
“I did a good job with my caddie on the second nine, focused shot by shot and I ended up playing well,” said the 23-year-old from Madrid, who has only been a professional for a year.
“Nine under at the start of the tournament is good. Some work to do this afternoon on the range and check a few things with my coach but happy.
“I have been struggling with my sleep. I came in here from the US with a 14-hour delay in an airport sitting down which didn’t help my body and it’s a 13-hour difference where I live. I went to bed at 9pm, woke up at 2, didn’t fall back to sleep until 4.30 and woke up at 5 to go and play so it’s just tough and something we need to get used to. I am loving China and I think it is a great country, great people and obviously great golf course.”
Zhang claimed this event three years ago when it was held as a China event only due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but is having little difficulty in adjusting to it being back on the Asian Tour.
A strong finish helped put him in prime position on what is his home course.
“For me, the 17th hole is very important,” he said.
“My drive is very good at that hole but then my second shot went into water. However, I played my fourth shot very well to get on the green and I holed the eight foot par putt. On 18 I hit a good drive, then an eight iron from 156-yards, then a great birdie putt.”
He won this event by nine strokes at the same venue, the year that amateur star Ding Wenyi came second. Ding is just three off the lead after a 68.
Thompson, enjoying a fine run of form having now made seven successive cuts, was disappointed with his poor finish but remains confident going into the weekend.
“I was probably rushing a bit because it was getting dark,” he said. “But I am playing well and looking forward to the next two days. I will learn from what happened today and come back stronger.”
Ogletree is just over US$560,000 ahead of second place David Puig from Spain on The International Series Order of Merit with three events to go including this week and could well wrap the title this weekend – which would confirm his place on next year’s LIV Golf League.
Said Ogletree, who has won two International Series events this year: “I had a couple of mistakes out there, but I was able to save a couple of shots. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to birdie either one of the par fives on the front nine. So, just need to clean it up a little bit. But, in a good position heading into the weekend, and the game feels like it’s really close. I think work on some stuff this afternoon and get ready to go and try to win a golf tournament.”
A total of seven players were unable to complete their rounds as darkness fell. They will resume at 7.20am (local time) on Saturday.