Ireland’s David Higgins claimed a one-shot lead after the first round of the Hong Kong Open that saw Finland’s Joonas Granberg suffer a bizarre disqualification and massive confusion over his replacement.
Granberg was due to tee off at 11.50am local time from the 11th hole at Hong Kong Golf Club, but initially went to the first tee before realising his mistake.
The 26-year-old then dashed to the 11th tee only to find his caddie had gone to the 10th tee – the more usual starting place for a two-tee start – instead.
Rule 6-3a states that if a player arrives at his starting point, within five minutes after his starting time, he is given a two-shot penalty. Otherwise, the penalty for a breach of the rule is disqualification. The story took another twist when it later emerged that Jeppe Huldahl was about to tee off in Granberg’s place, only to be told that he was only first reserve if a European Tour member pulled out.
As Granberg is an Asian Tour member, his place should have gone to first reserve Anthony Kang, but Kang had given up hope of getting a place and withdrawn to caddie for his friend Uhno Park instead.
That meant Singapore’s Chih-Bing Lam, who was originally second reserve, took up the place and had to sprint to the 11th tee, where he joined Park’s group and proceeded to shoot a four-under-par 66 to lie joint third.
Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm almost got disqualified as well, arriving on the first tee with moments to spare and having to play the first hole without his golf shoes.
“I set six alarm clocks this morning and woke up in desperation at 7.58am, tee time was 8.30am and we live a good 25 minutes from here so I was panicking to the tee box,” said Sjoholm.
Sjoholm’s round of 68 left him four behind Higgins, who carded nine birdies and three bogeys in his six-under-par 64 to finish one ahead of Italy’s Andrea Pavan.
Higgins, who lost his European Tour card by less than 20,000 euros at the end of the season, said: “It was great. I just played good solid golf from tee to green, holed some lovely putts and had a chip in; if you’re going to shoot a low score like that you’ve got to do some good stuff.
Hull’s Richard Finch finished six shots behind Higgins, with Harrogate’s John Parry struggling on the first day after hitting a disappointing 75.
n Former world No 1 Luke Donald continued his recent resurgence by claiming a two-shot lead before bad weather brought an early end to the opening day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, Wales’ Jamie Donaldson and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge were two shots further back.