From DP World Tour
Zander Lombard and Ashun Wu of China could not be separated following flawless opening rounds of 67 on Thursday at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club in Doha, Qatar.
Wu, who has four DP World Tour titles to his name, made the most of his early wake-up call to roll in five birdies and held a one-shot lead for most of the day before Lombard battled the afternoon wind in an impressive display to join the Chinese player at the summit.
Clément Sordet carded six birdies and one bogey to briefly sit alongside Wu through 15 holes, but the Frenchman found trouble at the next to slip one back alongside Dane Niklas Nørgaard, South Africa’s Jaco Prinsloo and Australian Haydn Barron at four under.
Wu had missed three cuts and made only one top-20 finish in his opening six tournaments of the 2024 Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex before surging to the top at Doha Golf Club.
“It was a great day today. A lot of greens, a lot of quality shots – on the tees, on the fairways and good putts too. Five birdies and bogey-free today is a really good start,” Wu said.
“I wasn’t here last year but I think the course has changed a little bit, moved the tee a little bit further back and made the fairways a bit wider and more water around the greens so it is great right now, it is perfect.”
In contrast, Lombard has been in brilliant form without getting over the line since the turn of the year. He was runner-up at last week’s Bahrain Championship presented by Bapco Energies following three top-20 finishes and timed his charge perfectly on Thursday with a closing birdie.
Lombard said: “Just really solid. I think I only missed two greens where I had to chip and the other one was just off and I putted it, so it was stress-free and a lot of lagged putts and the greens are beautiful, so slick and fast, so everything looks like it’s rolling in at the moment.
“I’ve got no weakness in the bag at the moment. Everything is really good and nothing that is really great so I put it down to real consistency over the last six months, so hopefully keep doing what I’m doing.”
Wu was in the second group to go out on Thursday morning, starting on the back nine, and immediately got into the red numbers with a tap-in birdie at the tenth.
He had to wait until the generous par-four 16th, which only played 307 yards, to card his next gain, despite finding the rough with his tee-shot, and was unlucky not to hole out his second shot.
The 38-year-old climbed to four-under thanks to successive birdies from the first to top the leaderboard for the first time before Prinsloo joined him, but he was quickly left behind when Wu picked up his fifth shot of the day at the seventh to take the clubhouse lead.
Lombard continued his rich vein of recent form by dialling into six foot at the second for his first birdie before another superb approach at the sixth saw him improve further.
He landed his tee-shot within seven feet at the par-three eighth to reach three under before the South African had his first chance to climb into the leading group at the 16th.
Lombard drove the green at the short par-four hole but could not drain his eagle attempt as he moved to four under. The 29-year-old finished his round with a birdie at the last for a brilliant bogey-free round of five under.
Prinsloo was in the opening group of the tournament as he mixed five birdies with one dropped shot, a record matched by Nørgaard. Barron picked up six shots and registered two bogeys for his share of third place, while Sordet’s par-par finish completed his card of 68.
There was group of seven players at three under consisting of Harrison Endycott, Tom McKibbin, Paul Waring, Rikuya Hoshino, Maximilian Rottluff, Sung Kang and Daniel Hillier.
Jacques Kruyswijk was on two-under in a share of 14th together with Ockie Strydom, with Hennie du Plessis and Darren Fichardt a further shot back in a share of 30th. Thriston Lawrence, Dylan Frittelli, Jayden Schaper and Louis de Jager were all on level-par in a share of 47th.
Casey Jarvis and Brandon Stone were on one-over, Pieter Moolman on two-over and Wilco Nienaber on four-over.