Scott tears it up at Midea China Classic

Australian Craig Scott survived a passport and visa nightmare to shoot a six-under-par 65 for a one-stroke lead after the first round of the US$500,000 Midea China Classic in Shunde, the third event of the inaugural OneAsia season.

Australian Brad McIntosh and Brisbane-based Irishman Eddie Barr each shot 66 at the Royal Orchid International Golf Club in Shunde, south of Guangzhou.

Stephen Leaney, the 2003 US Open runner-up and four-time European Tour winner, shot 67 to share fourth spot with Korean Sung Sea-woo and China's Gao Jie and Liu Junfeng.

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.

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."

Scott quickly got into the groove with his new stiff-shaft driver and made the most of his booming tee-shots.

"I've never played without a practice round, but it's not such a bad thing because you don't know where the danger is," he laughed. "My new driver has a stiff shaft that takes left out of play and is working well. Just one bad drive at the last, but otherwise I was pretty solid."

McIntosh, the big-hitting lefty famous for shooting the first 59 in an official PGA event in Australia, also made the most of the wide fairways to nail nine birdies.

"The course suits me because I can use my driver a lot, I can attack. I hit the driver really nicely, so got to hit a lot of wedges. There are a lot of potential birdie holes," said the stocky 27-year-old, a two-time winner on Australia's Von Nida Tour.

"My putting was on and off, so I guess I let a really good round slip away. I had a couple of three putts and missed a couple of greens, which is why I had four birdies."

McIntosh is rediscovering his confidence after a barren few years since winning the 2004 Toyota Southern Classic and the 2005 Queensland Open.

"I've been playing really well recently and won five smaller events in the past couple of months, so it's great to take that form into a big tournament like this," McIntosh said. "I played in Asia a few times last year, but it's my first time in China and I like it. The course is nice and the weather's warm, so I feel at home."

Leaney, a former President's Cup representative, opened with an eagle and two birdies. A double-bogey on the par-three 11th and a bogey on 13 set him back, but the 40-year-old rallied with birdies on 14, 17 and 18.

"I played really well, but got the full penalty for the two bad shots I made all day. I got caught between clubs on 11 and shanked the tee-shot into the water and ended up making double," said Leaney, who lost his US PGA Tour card in July after competing on a medical exemption.

"You just have to be patient on this course, because there are plenty of places where you can give yourself flat putts from 15-20 feet," he added.

Liang, Asia's number one 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."

OneAsia plans to offer 12-15 events next year and 17-20 annually from 2011 and beyond.

Source - OneAsia

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