Zhang Lianwei, Liang Wenchong and Li Chao, who between them have won 17 events on the China Tour, spearheaded the Chinese challenge on the first day of the 2.3 million U.S. dollars BMW Asian Open in Shanghai.
Zhang shot a two-under-par 70 at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club to lie joint-seventh in the star-studded event, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and China Golf Association.
Liang and Li both finished with a 71 to tie for 14th with the likes of former world number one Greg Norman, Ryder Cup hero Darren Clarke and Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion.
Zhang is three strokes behind Australian Peter O'Malley, who leads by one from India's Jeev Milkha Singh, Sweden's Henri Stenson, England's Oliver Wilson and Finland's Mikko Ilonen.
The 42-year-old showed his typical steely resolve to bounce back from the disappointment of missing the cut in last week's Volvo China Open in Beijing.
"I'm very satisfied to be under par on the first day. The main reason I shot 70 was that I was a lot more accurate with my irons than last week," said Zhang, whose score was all the more impressive considering he bogeyed his first hole, the 10th.
"My two bogeys, on holes 10 and six, came from three-putts. At the same time, I was happy to save several pars and make four birdies. The wind isn't strong here, but it does shift, so you have to watch out for that when measuring your approach shots."
Zhang started the year well, winning the China Tour's season-opening Guangzhou Championship and finishing runner-up in the Dell Championship in Xiamen.
However, after missing the Kunming Championship, he struggled in both of his rounds in last week's China Open before quickly turning his focus to this week's event.
"There are many tournaments in China and I try my best in every event. I didn't do well in Beijing, but I try to forget the unhappy times. I was a little unlucky there as the wind was so strong in the afternoon, but it doesn't mean I haven't worked hard since then.
"Also, last week was my first time playing at CBD International, whereas this is my fifth consecutive year playing at Tomson," Zhang added.
Liang, who last year succeeded India's Singh as winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, enjoyed a rock-steady opening round, with the 29-year-old securing a sole birdie on 17 for a 71.
Compared to Liang's 17 pars, Li's round was far more erratic, featuring three bogeys and four birdies, including a stunning hat-trick through holes two to four.
Hu Mu, the Florida-based teenage amateur, and Richard Qiu Zhifeng were the next-best performers among the 18 Chinese players.They both finished with 73, one behind the likes of Retief Goosen and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Big-hitting Yuan Hao and Liao Guiming both shot 74. Huang Mingjie and Yang Wenzhang were a shot further back on 75.
(Xinhua News Agency April 25, 2008)