Taiwan's Hsieh Chin-sheng made a spectacular return to the Hong Kong Golf Club yesterday, firing a seven-under-par 64 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the 40th Perrier Hong Kong Open. Hsieh - a Hong Kong Open winner in 1988 - made light of the damp conditions to turn in a flawless round of seven birdies and 11 pars. His exemplary performance was also a course record, as this year's slightly altered 6,727-yard layout has never been played before. 'My irons were very good today. That was the best part of my game . . . everything I hit landed near the pin,' Hsieh said after his record round. Trailing Hsieh by two strokes are big-hitting American John Daly, Taiwan's Wang Ter-chang and Hong Kong-based American professional Brad Schadewitz. A 300-strong gallery trailing Daly, Costantino Rocca and Frank Nobilo had come to see the American's famously long play off the tee. They didn't have long to wait before Daly obliged. Teeing off on the 11th, Daly's round started with a straight-forward par. On the par-five 12th, however, the driver came out of the bag and the two-time Major winner sent a peach of a drive ripping down the fairway. A 245-yard three iron second shot left him 12 feet from the pin, and he sank the putt for a superb eagle. He bogeyed the par four 14th, but atoned with back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th. Two more birdies on the third and sixth holes completed what Daly later described as a 'smart' round. 'I was hitting it really good,' a satisfied Daly said. 'I hit the driver really good . . . I played smart and I needed to. It was a good solid 18 holes,' he added. The light but persistent drizzle also made Daly's life easier, taking the bounce out of Fanling's normally rock-hard greens and fairways. 'I like it. It's a good course for me because it gives me a few opportunities to hit the driver. The weather helped as well . . . it made the course softer and it played a bit longer,' Daly said. Defending champion Nobilo got off to a slow start and dropped two shots in the opening six holes but picked up three birdies in the remainder of the round to finish with a respectable one-under-par 70. 'I had a pretty bad start and really I have to be happy with 70. I've been working on my game, but I was driving poorly. I was hitting a few good shots but I have to weed out the bad ones,' Nobilo said. Nobilo paid tribute to Daly's performance, and tipped the American to sustain his challenge over the remaining three rounds if weather conditions remain the same. 'That is as good as I've seen John play for a long time,' he said. 'He's striking the ball really well and if the course stays soft he's going to be in there. 'I didn't have a lot of fun today. I was about 80 yards behind him a lot of the time,' added Nobilo, who is tied with 15 others at one under par. While Nobilo and Daly are well-placed, their playing partner Rocca had a rougher ride, finishing with a one-over-par 72. Rocca never looked comfortable and finished relieved that he had not conceded more shots. 'I didn't have a very good day but considering the way I played I'm happy with my score,' the Italian Ryder Cup star said. Of the other big guns competing, there were sound rounds from 1996 US PGA Champion Mark Brooks and South African David Frost, the 1994 Hong Kong Open champion. Brooks remains firmly in contention, and is tied with three others at three under par, four shots off the lead. Frost also remains in the sub-par bracket after carding a one-under-par 70.