Tsai tops in qualifying event

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am

Taiwan's Tsai Chi-huang took the top spot after a level-par 72 in the Volvo China Open qualifying event at Shanghai Silport Golf Club yesterday.

This gave Tsai a coveted place alongside the likes of defending champion Paul Casey and other top European Tour players in the final field for the US$1.8 million Open at Beijing Hong Hua on April 13-16.

A former Taiwan Open champion, Tsai's two-round total of four-over-par 146 was four shots ahead of second-placed Wang Lei. The third and final qualifying spot was won by Liu Xin in a sudden-death play-off.

Starting three shots ahead after the first round, the 37-year-old Tsai, looked in full control as he increased his lead to five shots after the first five holes. Although he dropped shots at the ninth and 12th holes and double bogeyed the 15th, he offset those with birdies at the 13th and 18th and was never really threatened.

'I'm really happy that I was given a chance to enter for the qualifying in Silport this time,' said Tsai. 'This competition clearly shows the kindness and consideration of the China Open for us Chinese. Last time I was at the Open was in 1998, but only as a spectator. I have high hopes to do well in Beijing as I scored 67 in my practice round, so I know what I can do.'

Wang Lei, who is based at Qingdao International Golf Club in Shandong, had a nightmare start with three bogeys in the first six holes but held his game together by completing the remaining 12 holes in one under par for a 74 and a two round total of 151.

Liu birdied the 18th in the play-off with David Lee of Sunisland. The Shanghai International Country Club-based pro demonstrated his prodigious length off the tee at the par-five 554-yard hole, playing his second shot from just 180 yards.

The north China qualifying competition will be played at Beijing CBD International Golf Club on April 4-5 where three China Open spots are available.