Zhang swings share of the lead

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 November, 2003, 12:00am

Zhang Lianwei wants to take the game to the masses. He sponsors a junior programme and is pushing for public courses in China. But his best advertisement would be winning the US$500,000 Volvo China Open. The 38-year-old put himself in prime position to achieve that aim by taking a share of the lead after the first round at the Shanghai Silport Golf Club yesterday. He was joined by the Philippines' Danny Zarate and Angelo Que.

'It's the first time I have been in the lead in the Volvo China Open and it feels good,' said Zhang, whose best finishes at his national Open have been a third, fourth and fifth. 'But I'm not getting carried away. I have to do it over four rounds.'

Zhang could have finished the day with the outright lead after a flying start when he birdied the first two holes. But he missed a couple of short putts and finished with eight birdies and three bogeys. 'I played conservatively,' he said. 'I tried to stay out of the rough, which was dangerous.'

Zhang should be in even better shape for the second round as he was playing for the first time in two weeks after recovering from flu. 'I have taken time off the Japan Tour to be with my wife and daughter,' he said. He has been a little disappointed with his form in Japan this year after a good debut year in 2002 when he finished second twice. Zhang knows the expectations are high for him to win for China, but he has an ally in Liang Wenchong.

Liang looked poised to claim the outright lead coming to the last three holes at five-under, but two bogeys dropped him back to a 69. 'I played really well for the first nine holes, but messed up with my driver at the end,' said a disappointed Liang, who headed straight for the driving range afterwards.

Still, Zhang said he would be looking over his shoulder in the next three rounds and expected Liang to be right there.

The surprise package was the 24-year-old Que, who has missed his last four cuts and was starting to wonder whether he belonged on the Tour.

'It was really tough. In the back of my mind I'm thinking, What am I doing? I finished tied for second in the qualifying school for this Tour but I don't know what I am doing any more.' Yesterday's round set his mind at ease. 'I'm very happy,' said Que. 'The course was playing really easy today.

Zarate produced the best finish of the day, blitzing five of the last six holes. 'It just clicked on the 13th hole,' said the 39-year-old. 'My putter became hot. It's a surprise to have a share of the lead.'