Rai shreds course record to lead in Hong Kong

Weekly Trust - - Sportxtra -

There was high drama at the Hong Kong Open Fri­day as up­start Aaron Rai smashed the course record with a blis­ter­ing nine­un­der-par 61, and Masters cham­pion Patrick Reed birdied six of the fi­nal seven to avoid elim­i­na­tion.

Eng­land’s Matt Fitz­patrick and Tommy Fleet­wood and Spa­niard Al­varo Quiros all found their form in calmer weather con­di­tions to keep Rai within sight as they head into the week­end.

Be­gin­ning his round at the 11th hole, Rai, the world num­ber 201, made four con­sec­u­tive birdies from 12 to 15, and an­other five in to­tal as he stayed bo­gey-free for the tour­na­ment.

The overnight co-leader opened up a four-stroke ad­van­tage at the top of the board over South Ko­rea’s Park Hyo-won, who also broke the pre­vi­ous course record with his 62.

Rai, who like Park is seek­ing his first win on the Euro­pean Tour, im­proved on the record of 63 at the par70 Fan­ling first shot by Chris Wood in 2012 and equalled by Lu­cas Bjer­re­gaard in 2015, David How­ell in 2016 and Miguel An­gel Jimenez in 2017.

Fleet­wood, the world No 9, made a charge with his 65 to lie eight shots off the pace, but af­ter­wards he was full of praise for the 23-year-old Rai.

“It’s great golf that... very, very im­pres­sive stuff. That’s all I’ve got to say,” said Fleet­wood, who nar­rowly missed out win­ning his sec­ond Race to Dubai this month.

“I wish I could have watched it.”

Rai thanked his lo­cal cad­die, call­ing him a “great char­ac­ter” and say­ing he helped keep him calm.

Go­ing into the week­end, a com­posed Rai said his tac­tics would be to stick “as close to the orig­i­nal game plan as pos­si­ble”.

“We were lucky to­day with the con­di­tions,” added Rai.

“We didn’t have much wind and start­ing out pretty early, it was quiet for the first nine holes so it kind of feels like you’re play­ing a round at home, which was nice.”

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo of Ju­ven­tus

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