Spaniard Red-Hot in Hong Kong Open; McIlroy Nine Back


Javier Colomo fired a 6-under 64 to take the first-round lead in the Hong Kong Open. The $2.7 million tournament, held since 1959 and co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours, started Thursday at Hong Kong Golf Club.

Beginning play on the 10th tee, Colomo went out with a birdie on his front nine but then warmed up considerably on the home half, carding five birdies for a 5-under 29.

"I'm playing really good because this is my first season here (in Asia). The first six months it was very hard for me and my wife," said the 28-year-old Spaniard, who despite ranking outside the world's top-500 golfers out-shot No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy by nine strokes.

"But now we are more comfortable and more happy, perfect," added Colomo, who after three failed attempts to make it through the European Tour's Q-School has opted to play in Asia. "I'm only here with my wife. I'd like some family to come here to watch me play, but it is very expensive at the moment. We don't know what will happen in the future."

The 23-year-old McIlroy, seeking to become the first repeat winner since Taiwan's Hsieh Yung-yo in 1963-64, had an off-day with two bogeys and a birdie on the front nine and two more bogeys on the inward half. "I probably just lacked a bit of energy out there. I felt a bit lethargic - mentally, more than physically, if I am being honest," said McIlroy, who this year duplicated Luke Donald's 2011 feat of winning the money-list titles on both the PGA and European tours.

"I started off okay and just got more and more frustrated as the round went on," he added. "I just felt like I was hitting some decent shots and just not really converting any chances for birdies and I just let it get to me a little bit."

Tied for second after 65s are Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australian Andrew Dodt. Jimenez, who will turn 49 on January 5th, is in position to become the oldest player ever to win on the European Tour. At 48 years and 34 days old, Ireland's Des Smyth currently holds the record as the oldest winner when he took the 2001 Madeira Islands Open.

"I played very solid all day long," said Jimenez, a vice-captain on Europe's victorious 2012 Ryder Cup team and an 18-time European Tour winner. "The finish was the only thing not very nice. I like the golf course. I first won here in 2004 and then in 2007. It's an old-fashioned golf course and I like it here very much."

Another "ancient" Spaniard, 46-year-old Jose Maria Olazabal - Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup captain - carded a 4-under 66 to share fourth with China's Zhang Lianwei, Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden, South Korea's Y.E. Yang and Italy's Lorenzo Gagli.

Other scores included a 67 by 19-year-old Matteo Manassero, who won last week's Singapore Open by a stroke over McIlroy. American Matt Kuchar opened with a 69.

For complete scoring, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012090/leaderboard/index.html.


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