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China's golfer Zhang struggles on Masters debut
Updated: 2004-04-09 10:39

Zhang Lian-wei, the first Chinese golfer to play in the U.S. Masters, has got off to a disappointing start scoring 77 or five-over-par after two double-bogeys.

The Chinese number one began his round positively on Thursday by parring 10 of the first 11 holes.

But a double-bogey at the 12th hole and another on at the 15th left him scrambling to salvage a respectable score on his Masters debut.

Zhang Lianwei said before he arrived he knew it would be the most challenging course he'd ever play.

With golf a relatively new sport in China, Zhang's appearance at the Augusta National Golf Club is more than symbolic.

Last year Zhang became the first Chinese winner on the European Tour when he birdied the final hole at the Singapore Masters to snatch the title from three-time major winner Ernie Els.

The 38-year-old former track and field athlete is also a winner of the China Open, and finished second on the Asian tour money list.

But despite his accomplishments leading players on the Asian Tour were critical of the Augusta National's decision to extend Zhang a special Masters invitation ahead of more successful golfers.

Zhang, however, refused to let the controversy affect him, instead hoping the exposure he was receiving at one of the world's most prestigious tournaments would help develop the sport in China.

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