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Japan's Taihei Sato fires nine birdies to lead Chongqing Championship | Updated: 2019-03-29 09:45
Japan's Taihei Sato. [Photo provided to]

CHONGQING, China — Players brought their A-games for the opening event of the 2019 PGA TOUR Series-China season as almost half of the field shot under-par scores but it was Japan's Taihei Sato who prevailed to hold the opening-round lead at the Chongqing Championship.

Sato fired nine birdies en route to a 7-under 66 at Poly Golf Club to take a one-shot lead over China's Liu Yanwei, Canada's Justin Shin and Americans Frederick Wedel and Luke Kwon.

Chinese Taipei's Chiehpo "Max" Lee and Australia's Max McCardle, who tied for third with each other at this event last year, shot 68s to share sixth, along with four others, including Chinese amateur Liang Enqi.

Sato, who teed off on hole 11, quickly turned on the switch after starting his round with a bogey, picking up three birdies in his next four holes. He then added five more birdies on holes 18, 1, 2, 7, and 8 before closing bogey-birdie.

"I played super good today. I'm not sure what happened but I think it was a really good round. I three-putted three times but still made a lot of birdies," said Sato, who finished 18th on the Tour's Order of Merit in 2018. "I made a great birdie on hole 15. I was out of position in the bunker and hit a great shot to about a foot."

Liu is also in good form and is hoping to make more putts like today as he aims to keep the Chongqing Championship trophy in China's hands after Cao Yi won the inaugural event in 2018.

"I holed three putts around 15-18 feet, so that was quite big. When those go in it's always a bonus," said Liu. "Making those long putts helps a lot so let's see how it goes tomorrow. Hopefully I can keep this up and would be great if another Chinese player could win this week."

After a 25 percent increase in purse levels from 2016 to 2018, purse levels have again increased with this week's Chongqing Championship offering RMB 1.6 million, up from RMB 1.5 million in 2018.

The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.

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