Henrik Stenson loses sense of humour on rough day at Volvo China Open
World number three, still suffering from a stomach bug, complains of slow greens and 'silly' rough on Genzon course
With his sense of humour strangled by sickness, Henrik Stenson threw a club and then a left hook at the course set-up at the Volvo China Open on Thursday.
The world number three complained of “silly rough” and “slow greens” after catching a bad lie on the last hole, then an unlucky approach shot that led to a bogey and a one-under-par 71.
Stenson responded by throwing his iron, slamming it into his bag and then ripping into the course at the Genzon Golf Club, which he had not played – or seen – after spending three days laid low by a stomach bug.
“It’s not easy to play a golf course blind and it definitely costs a couple of shots when you haven’t seen it, or haven’t played it,” he said.
“And the rough … you get some horrific lies when you’re missing fairways or greens. I took a six on the 13th by just being off the green. You can’t even get the ball hardly on the green to save par.
“When the rough gets that silly in certain areas, it kind of takes away a lot of skill. You don’t have to hit it particularly well to hold the greens either – it’s pretty slow. So all in all it played pretty tricky – for myself at least.”
Despite his frustrations, Stenson finished the first round of the 20th China Open only four shots behind joint leaders Alvaro Quiros of Spain and Simon Dyson of England. They both finished with five-under 67s to lead six others, including defending champion Brett Rumford, at four under.
Stenson faced another uncomfortable night as he said there had been little improvement in his condition and survival was his objective.
“There was no improvement, unfortunately, from yesterday. The body doesn’t feel great and the stomach is upset. I’m not throwing up, but I’m not too keen on eating and my energy levels aren’t the best.
“Once I got going I felt better and made it around and actually played all right. I’m just going back to rest and hopefully feel a bit better tomorrow – or at least not worse – and get around another 18.”
Thirty-two Chinese players, included seven amateurs, started with high hopes of starring at their national open and only six finished at par or better, led by Wu Ashun at three under.
“It is more exciting to play in China. It’s my second time playing here [at Genzon] and I like this course. The fans are very friendly and get excited to watch me play and also the other Chinese players,” said Wu, who has set a target of breaking into the world’s top 100 this year. He is at 144.
Liang Wenchong, who sits seven places above Wu in the world rankings, recovered from a poor front nine to finish at two under, along with Yuan Tian.
Teen sensation Guan Tianlang finished at one-under - the best of the amateurs - and felt right at home, giving a confident air that he would make the cut “I played well today and gave myself plenty of opportunities, but still could be better. I’m not far from my home town [in Guangzhou] and I’m used to conditions here,” he said.
Dyson, winner of the China Open in 2000, showed a return to form after finding “something” on the range the previous evening.
“My first nine holes was the best I have played for quite some time. I really didn’t miss a shot. I was absolutely horrendous in the pro-am yesterday. I just went on the range for a couple of hours and managed to find something which I took out on to the course and it seemed to work for me.”
“I have had a bit of success here and really enjoy playing in China. Obviously, I have won this tournament before so that always gives you a good feeling,” Dyson said.
Quiros was also feeling things were falling into place.
“You can’t see it yet on the rankings but I have been playing better. The Middle East swing was a good three weeks for me, then I had a good result in Joburg and the last couple of weeks have been better.
“As always, this week will be about putting, especially as it is a new course for everyone so no one really knows it that well,” he said.