How does he do it? Unho Park leads again at the Hong Kong PGA Championship
Title-holder gets off to a flying start with a share of the first-round lead in his bid to achieve a remarkable five consecutive victories
Unho Park continued his love affair with the Ageas HKPGA Championship by taking a share of the first-round lead at the Hong Kong Golf Club on Monday.
Park, who is eyeing a fifth consecutive victory in the long-running event, carded a solid two-under-par 68 over the New Course to sit at the top of the leader board alongside Hong Kong’s Charlie Lee Cheuk-lam.
Hong Kong amateur Leon D’Souza and local pro James Wong Woon-man returned matching 69s to find themselves a shot back in a tie for third.
“It’s always good to have the lead, but it’s still very early days,” said Park, who turned 42 on the eve of the HK$500,000 championship. “To shoot under par in the first round of the first event of the year is a confidence boost. It was a lot of fun out there.”
Park started with a bogey at the opening hole but three back-nine birdies and no further blemishes lifted his spirits and he’ll head into the second round, which will be played at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, as very much the man to beat.
“The first two days of this event are about trying to put myself into position and enjoying myself,” he said.
“The business end comes on Wednesday.”
Lee, by contrast, was left to rue an untidy finish to what was otherwise an impressive performance. The Hangzhou-based instructor, who was raised in Australia, bogeyed the last two holes for his own 68.
“I got pretty lucky to be honest and I didn’t hit the ball as well I would have liked, but I’m a full-time coach and didn’t have that much time for preparation this week,” said the 25-year-old. “It was a shame the way I finished but I’m really just happy to be home with my family and to see my friends.”
Tournament drawcard Rich Beem, who won the 2002 PGA Championship after holding off Tiger Woods down the closing stretch at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota, posted a three-over 74 to find himself in a share of seventh.
“It was a lot of fun to get the competitive juices flowing again but I putted like I’d never touched a putter in my life – it was scary bad,” said the 45-year-old American, who made headlines in October when he gave up his sponsors’ exemption at the Hong Kong Open to allow Ian Poulter a place in the field when the Englishman was on the verge of losing his European Tour membership.
“It’s tough to swallow when you think you’re close but, in my case, you’re actually so far away.”