Stenson slams China Open course, Poulter in the hunt
This photo taken and received by OneAsia on April 24, 2014 shows Henrik Stenson of Sweden playing a shot during the first round of the Volvo China Open at the Genzon Golf Club in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen - by Paul Lakatos
The big Swede cut a frustrated figure at the Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen, even throwing his club towards his bag on the eighteenth hole before signing for a one-under-par 71.
Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang carded the same score but was much happier with his efforts while Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter finished two shots better at three under, two behind the leaders.
Spain's Alvaro Quiros and Simon Dyson of England were tied for the lead after matching 67s over the tough, undulating 7,145-yard-long course.
Stenson, third in the world rankings, had been considered the tournament favourite but his preparation was hit by a heavy dose of flu which kept him in bed for almost two days and unable to practise.
"There was no improvement, unfortunately, from yesterday," the 38-year-old said of his illness.
"The body doesn't feel great, the stomach is upset... I'm not throwing up but I'm not too keen on eating and my energy levels aren't the best."
A tired-looking Stenson started his round perfectly, holing birdies on the opening two holes, but he struggled thereafter, swapping four bogeys with a further three birdies.
"It's not easy to play a golf course blind, and it definitely costs a couple of shots when you haven't seen it, or haven't played it," rued the Swedish star.
- 'Played pretty tricky' -
But it wasn't just flu or unfamiliarity that Stenson cursed, taking aim at the condition of the course.
"You get some horrific lies when you're missing fairways or greens," he said.
"I took a (bogey) six on 13 by just being off the green -- you can't even get the ball hardly on the green to save par.
"I think it's a course that when the rough gets that silly in certain areas, it kind of takes away a lot of skill.
"You don't have to hit it particularly well to hold the greens either... it's pretty slow. So all in all it played pretty tricky -- for myself at least."
Guangzhou schoolboy Guan, who made waves at last year's Masters when he became the youngest player ever to make the cut, came back with nine straight pars for a solid 71.
"I played well today," said the 15-year-old. "I gave myself a lot of opportunities to make putts. It could have been better but I played really consistently."
Poulter described his 69 as a "fairly decent start" in his quest for the $530,000 winner's cheque.
Also on three under was 28-year-old Wu Ashun, the leading Chinese player.
Spain's Quiros attributed his five-under-par round, which included an eagle, to some handy putting while Dyson said he played some of his best golf for "quite some time".
Last year, Dyson was fined 30,000 pounds ($50,000 dollars) and given a suspended two-month ban for tapping down a spike mark during a tournament in Shanghai.
The leaders are one ahead of defending champion Brett Rumford, who's tied with five other players at four-under par on a packed leaderboard.
Two of those five will complete their first round on Saturday, after darkness forced them to stop play with the last hole remaining.
PGA Champion Jason Dufner completed his first round at the European Tour-OneAsia co-sanctioned event in one over.