Hong Kong, Nov 15: Robert Karlsson's conservative gameplan paid off when he hit a six-under-par 64 for a share of the early lead with fellow Swede Freddy Andersson-Hed in the Hong Kong Open today.
Karlsson, who missed the cut on his last trip to Fanling in 2005, made three birdies either side of the turn in a blemish-free round to share the first-round clubhouse lead with Andersson-Hed, one-shot better than South Korean Kang Wook-soon.
''I am very pleased because I have never really done any good around here before,'' the 38-year-old Karlsson, a seven-times winner on the European Tour, told reporters.
''I've actually tried to avoid this tournament in the past because I've done so badly. But I think I've figured out how to play it. I think playing a bit more conservatively and being patient is the key.'' Kang hit six birdies and a single bogey in his 65 to hold a one-shot advantage over nine players sharing fourth place after rounds of 66, a group including two more Swedes in Daniel Chopra and Mathias Gronberg.
Andersson-Hed, who made a blistering start with birdies on his first four holes, was at a loss to explain why the Swedes had done so well on a hot and sunny first morning at the $2.25 million event, co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.
''We certainly stick together,'' the 35-year-old said. ''Of course, then you discuss what way to play a course but most chatting is about that is probably done when we play practice rounds together.'' Thai Thongchai Jaidee, third here last year, could have had a share of the lead had he not dropped two shots over his last three holes, including a two-putt at the ninth after a fine bunker shot left him three feet from the hole.
''On my last nine holes I struggled,'' he said after his 66.
''But overall I am pleased. I am happy and I will try my best tomorrow.'' Canadian Mike Weir, the 2003 U.S. Masters champion, hit a one-under 69. His fellow former major winners Nick Faldo and Retief Goosen were among the late starters.