Phelan poised to grab chance but Lawrie needs miracle to avoid Q-School

Ian Poulter in Hong Kong on Thursday. Picture: Getty Images

Peter Lawrie looks condemned to Q-School after an opening with a 78 but Kevin Phelan is poised to take advantage of his final opportunity as he opened with a 66 in the UBS Hong Kong Open.

Like Phelan, Lawrie needs a Top-6 finish at worst to end the year inside the Top-110 who will have full playing privileges next season.

But it didn’t work out for the touring professional for PGA Catalunya Resort, which will host the Final Stage of Q-School next month.

Starting on the 11th, the 41-year old Dubliner was four over after four and while he birdied his sixth hole, he dropped five shots in his last 11 holes and is 138th in the 144-man field and all but certain to miss the cut.

Mount Juliet touring professional Phelan confessed that he was resigned to going to Q-School after a poor second half of the season to improve his status for 2016.

But after sneaking into the Hong Kong field having been miles down the reserve list a week ago, he’s now got nothing to lose.,

Tied third last year on a course that suits his accurate style, the Waterford man fired six birdies and two bogeys in a four under 66 that left him in a six-man share of sixth with the resurgent Graeme McDowell, two shots off the lead held by Italy’s Andrea Pavan and Taiwan’s Lu Wei-chih.

“I’m pretty happy with it,” Phelan said of an early morning round that helped his jetlag. "I played nicely all day. Any time I was in trouble I got out of it pretty quickly and I holed a few putts.

“After the Dunhill I had kind of written the year off and thought I was just going to go to Tour School. 

"I didn’t think I was going to get in here or Portugal and only got to Portugal on Wednesday night and I think I was 50-something reserve when the entry list for here came out and got in comfortably in the end. I am just delighted to have another chance. 

"I definitely look at it as a bonus, especially getting into these tournaments so late. I arrived here on Tuesday night and Portugal on Wednesday night so you can’t do the usual preparations. 

“I am just treating it as a bonus and trying to do the best I can.” 

McDowell, who is hoping to get back into the world’s Top 50 after a poor year, opened with a bogey at the first but made five birdies for a 66 and while it could have been several shots lower with a little more luck on the greens, he was pleased.

“I’m happy enough with that,” McDowell said. “You know, I was three under through ten and had my chances on the back nine. 

“And you know, a few putts could have gone in, but generally very happy the way I putted today, so I can't complain. 

"Hit a lot of decent shots and I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow. I had good company today with Dustin (Johnson) and Justin (Rose), two of the best players in the world, which is an inspiration in itself.”

Padraig Harrington had to settle for a 70 in an event where he needs a Top-2 finish to keep his hopes alive of playing in the Final Series for the first time sinxe 2013, when he played two of the four events.

Ian Poulter’s late entry and arrival had a minimal effect on the Englishman’s opening round as he carded a fine 67 to lie just three shots off the lead

The Englishman’s well-publicised last-minute dash from the USA to replace Rich Beem as a tournament invitation meant he could not have been any less prepared for the start of the event. 

But he defied the odds in typical Poulter style with a great opening round of three under par – three strokes behind joint leaders Andrea Pavan and Lu Wei-chih.

Poulter’s Ryder Cup team mate Justin Rose was also in ominous form as he opened his week with a five under 65 to join Shiv Kapur and CT Pan in a share of second spot

The USA’s Ryder Cup pair of Patrick Reed and Johnson posted scores of 68 and 69 on their UBS Hong Kong Open debuts.

After his unexpected drop from the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking at the beginning of the week had put his ability to fulfil his minimum number of European Tour events required to retain his Membership for 2016 in doubt, Poulter arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday night without his regular caddie and having not had the opportunity to carry out any of his usual meticulous tournament planning.

Instead he relied on the knowledge he has of the famous Fanling venue from previous performances – none more so than when he took the UBS Hong Kong Open title in 2010 – as he compiled five birdies and two dropped shots en route to his 67.

“I guess in the circumstances, it was pretty good,” smiled the 39 year old. “Had I nudged a three-footer in on seven for birdie to get to three under that would have been the start I was looking for. 

"I didn't, I missed it and then I bogeyed the next two holes to kind of take away the good work I had done in the first few holes.

“It took me awhile to get back to three under, but overall, I've played pretty nicely on a course which I've had to get to know again pretty quickly. But I have to be happy with that after landing last night.

“Having won here in the past definitely helped. I like the golf course. Fanling suits my game. It's not all about length, it's about position in play off the tee. When you've shot low rounds on a golf course in the past, you know your lines, you know where you want to be putting from. So yeah, it was nice to get back out there on the course.

“I saw Rich (Beem) in the hotel this morning, so I went over and said, that's awfully kind of you to do this. He didn't have to but he was nice enough to do it, and yeah, I have to thank him for that.”

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, said: “I’m really happy with the start, and more pleased with how I played today, how I swung the club, struck the ball and how patient I stayed. I had a good strategy out there, and got to grips with the golf course for the first time.”

UBS Hong Kong Open, Hong Kong Golf Club (Par 70)

64 A Pavan (Ita), L Wei-Chih (Tpe), 

65 J Singh (Ind), J Rose (Eng), C Pan (Tpe), 

66 O Fisher (Eng), S Chawrasia (Ind), R Gangjee (Ind), L Bjerregaard (Den), Kevin Phelan (Irl), Graeme McDowell (Nir), 

67 S Rahman (Ban), I Poulter (Eng), P Meesawat (Tha), A Lahiri (Ind), L Wen-Tang (Tpe), R McEvoy (Eng), R Kakko (Fin), C Nirat (Tha), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), 

68 Y Yang (Kor), D Lipsky (USA), V Dubuisson (Fra), J Scrivener (Aus), K Richardson (Aus), J Knutzon (USA), A Vongvanij (Tha), S Supupramai (Tha), C Kim (USA), D Gaunt (Aus), D Drysdale (Sco), U Park (Aus),  P Reed (USA),  A Groom (Aus),  M Kawamura (Jpn),  N Holman (Aus),     

69 D Johnson (USA), R Karlberg (Swe), R Wannasrichan (Tha), T Pilkadaris (Aus), S Yates (Sco), B Evans (Eng), M Foster (Eng), B Easton (RSA), P Hanson (Swe), S Hend (Aus), C Pigem (Esp), J Janewattananond (Tha), S Brazel (Aus), G Bhullar (Ind), R Gonzalez (Arg), R Dinwiddie (Eng), M Ford (Eng), 

70 J Randhawa (Ind), M Jiménez (Esp), M Mamat (Sin), J Lagergren (Swe), C Phadungsil (Tha), P Marksaeng (Tha), S Lee (Kor), S Kapur (Ind), D Horsey (Eng), R Khan (Ind), Pádraig Harrington (Irl), P Maddy (Eng), P Pittayarat (Tha), L Jensen (Den), O Farr (Wal), M Ilonen (Fin), P Uihlein (USA), C Paisley (Eng), L Wen-Chong (Chn), M Nixon (Eng), T Lewis (Eng), 

71 W Ormsby (Aus), J Lara (Esp), A Dodt (Aus), J Walters (RSA), J Barnes (Eng), N Fung (Mas), S Barr (Aus), M Perera (Sri), C Plaphol (Tha), C Shih-Chang (Tpe), C Lee (Sco), D Brooks (Eng), E Espana (Fra), J Carlsson (Swe), A Da Silva (Bra), R Paratore (Ita), P Tangkamolprasert (Tha), T Jaidee (Tha), R Lee (Can), J Wang (Kor), S Jamieson (Sco), J Kruger (RSA), D Chia (Mas), C Doak (Sco), M Lundberg (Swe), 

72 B Henson (USA), J Colomo (Esp), A Kang (USA), G Havret (Fra), A Que (Phi), M Fraser (Aus), L Hao-Tong (Chn), M Crespi (Ita), S Benson (Eng), C Del Moral (Esp), P Junhasavasdikul (Tha), T Wiratchant (Tha), M Wong (am) (Hkg), 

73 L Weber (Fra), J Edfors (Swe), A Atwal (Ind), J Lando Casanova (Fra), E Goya (Arg), M Tabuena (Phi), D Van Tonder (RSA), B Ritthammer (Ger), J Roos (RSA), 

74 J Higginbottom (Aus), T Tang (Hkg), J Stewart (Hkg), G Mulroy (RSA), H Chien-Yao (Tpe), W Choy (Hkg), K Pratt (Aus), M Korhonen (Fin), P Peterson (USA), 

75 C Lloyd (Eng), A Otaegui (Esp), K Horne (RSA), 

76 A Lascuna (Phi), S Lewton (Eng), V Riu (Fra), M Both (Aus), M Lampert (Ger), 

78 W Woon-Man (Hkg), Peter Lawrie (Irl), L Chi-Bing (Sin), T Ng (am) (Hkg), 

79 S Norris (RSA), 

81 H Shun-Yat (Hkg).