Andrea Pavan and Lu Wei-chih hold a share of the lead following the opening round of the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Pavan has never recorded a top-three finish on the European Tour and came into the event with the pressure on as he sat in 191st position in the race for Dubai.
The Italian needs to finish second or better to climb into the top 110 and keep hold of his playing privileges, and he got off to the perfect start as he birdied four of the last six holes to card a 64 to tie for the lead with Taiwan’s Lu.
“This year has been a struggle to say the least,” Pavan said. “I’m just trying to dig deep and really look forward to every week. Obviously this is the last event of the year for me and then I’m looking to go to Q-School. So it’s all about just giving myself chances.
“I’m just really trying to get my game in better shape. It’s good on the range but I still feel like I’m lacking a bit of confidence. I know I have what it takes. It’s been tough last year and this year, but it’s all a learning curve and I really hope I can make the next step soon.”
It was also a productive day for England duo Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.
Rose, who went into the tournament as favourite, opened up with a flawless five-birdie 65 to sit one shot behind the leaders, while Poulter fired a 67 despite only arriving in Hong Kong late on Wednesday night without any practice.
Poulter, who fell out of the world’s top 50 at the start of the week, needed to compete in the last regular-season event to make enough starts to retain his European Tour membership for next season, and the dash to Hong Kong has so far paid off.