Sport Golf

Wednesday 29 January 2020

McGrane off to flier as prodigy bites back

13-year-old Guan Tian-lang in action during the first round of the China Open.
13-year-old Guan Tian-lang in action during the first round of the China Open.

William S Callahan

DAMIEN McGRANE fired off another Chinese cracker yesterday.

McGrane (41), who registered his only European Tour victory at the Volvo China Open in 2008, surged straight into contention in this year's event with a first-round 67 at Binhai Lake Golf Club.

The flint-hard Kells man has been in resurgent form, finishing second to Michael Hoey on his most recent Tour outing at the King Hassan II Trophy in Morocco last month.

McGrane instantly clicked back into top gear yesterday, registering the first of six birdies at the opening hole as he swept into a tie for eighth, just two off the pace set by Challenge Tour graduate Matthew Baldwin with a faultless 65.

Wisely, organisers set up Pete Dye's monster new course at Binhai Lake to play more than 600 yards shorter than its full 7,667-yard length after high winds had been forecast in the Tianjin area.

McGrane was prominent among those to take advantage of benign playing conditions before lunch.

However, Chinese schoolboy Tian-lang Guam had to grapple with a fresh breeze as well as the inevitable butterflies in the afternoon as, at age 13 years and 173 days, he became the youngest player in European Tour history.

As one might expect, the World Junior title-holder started nervously and was five-over par after his opening six holes.

Significantly, he maintained his rhythm and composure and, after turning in 41, shot nine straight pars on the way home for a 77.

Considering Rory McIlroy racked up rounds of 82 and 81 when, days after his 16th birthday, he made his first European Tour appearance as an amateur at the 2005 British Masters, this was an impressive effort by Guam.

His Australian playing companion Marcus Fraser (33), a two-time winner on the European Tour, was blown away by the youngster's performance, saying: "I couldn't believe I was playing with a 13-year-old. I'm old enough to be his dad; he was very impressive."

Dubliner Peter Lawrie closed out his first-round 69 with a bogey, while Shane Lowry racked up three bogeys in the final six holes for a 71 after playing his opening 11 in a faultless four-under.

In contrast, Gareth Maybin rattled off a hat-trick of birdies in the final four holes of his 71. However, fellow Ulsterman Hoey had no birdies on his card as he stumbled to a 74 which included 34 putts.

Meanwhile, Matt Every stormed into the clubhouse lead at the Valero Texas Open with a course-record 63 in yesterday's event-packed first round. The Floridian had nine birdies on his card at one of the US Tour's toughest tracks, the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.

Elsewhere, The Island's teenage star Gavin Moynihan led from start to finish as he lifted the Peter McEvoy Trophy at Copt Heath yesterday. Moynihan fired a nerveless 70 to finish the prestigious event with a four-round total of 275, five shots clear of Max Orrin and Nick Marsh.

Sixth at the same tournament 12 months ago, the winner of the Tom Montgomery Award for 2011 follows in the footsteps of Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, who also won the trophy as amateurs.

Whitehead's Ross Galbraith was 15 strokes off the lead, while Irish Boys champion Jordan Hood of Galgorm Castle finished well down the field.

Volvo China Open, Day 2, Live, Sky Sports 2, 7.0am

Valero Texas Open, Live, Sky Sports 2, 8.0

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