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October 16, 2009

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Australian Scott ahead at China Classic

AUSTRALIA'S Craig Scott fired a six-under 65 to take the lead after yesterday's opening round of the China Classic.

Scott birdied two holes on the front nine and three more on the back nine before an eagle on the last hole at the Royal Orchid International Golf Club in Shunde, south of Guangzhou.

Ireland's Eddie Barr and another Australian Brad McIntosh were one stroke behind the leader at the US$500,000 tournament - part of the OneAsia series which rivals the Asian Tour, after firing 66 each.

Four golfers were two strokes off the lead: 2003 US Open runner-up and four-time European Tour winner Stephen Leaney of Australia, Sung Sea-woo of South Korea and Chinese hopes Gao Jie and Liu Junfeng.

Another Chinese Xiao Zhijin was three strokes back after firing a 68.

After a stress-strewn few days, Scott arrived at Royal Orchid at 5.30pm on Wednesday, so his only preparation was a quick buggy drive of the Nick Faldo design. Teeing off on hole 10, he bagged five birdies, eagled the par-five 18th and bogeyed the par-four fifth.

"That wasn't bad considering I've never played the course before," said the 26-year-old. "I turned up at Melbourne airport on Saturday, but had a little tear in my passport so it was confiscated along with my Chinese visa. I got a new passport by Monday afternoon, but the Chinese embassy was closed by then.

"I went to the embassy on Tuesday morning, but they couldn't issue a same-day visa, so I booked a flight to Hong Kong that night and got a visa there on Wednesday. I then took a long bus ride and arrived at 5.30, so quickly drove the course in a buggy."

Chinese superstar Liang Wenchong carded a 69 to tie for ninth, while?Zhang Lianwei, the 2006 champion, and playing partner Kurt Barnes of Australia both finished even-par.

Liang, Asia's No. 1 in 2007 and joint runner-up in last month's Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open in Japan, birdied the first and last, while a chip-in birdie at the par-four 10th offset a bogey at eight.

"The chip-in made me feel good, especially after the bogey on eight," Liang said. "I feel well and overall the round was okay, even though I missed a few birdie putts."


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