Champion Paul Casey hit an impressive opening round of 65 to begin his defence of the TCL Classic but was still three shots off the lead after a morning of low scoring at the Yalong Bay Golf Club.
Asian Tour regular Edward Loar set a new course record with a round of 62 to lead by one from South Africa’s Warren Abery, with Casey a further two shots back in a group of four players on seven under par.
Casey – who defeated Ireland’s Paul McGinley in a play-off to win the title last year – was joined on seven-under by South African Charl Schwartzel, Ireland’s Stephen Browne and Ariel Canete of Argentina as the kind early-morning conditions gave up a series of low scores.
Starting at the 10th hole, the Weybridge-based golfer had the perfect start to his title defence, birdying his third – the 12th – and eagling the fourth to move to three under par after just four holes.
Casey played level-par golf to complete the back nine in 33 strokes before kicking off the second half of his round with another eagle, at his 10th – the 570-yard par-five first – and moved onto six under with a birdie at his 12th hole of the round before the 17th yielded another birdie.
Canete had a bogey-free round to join Casey on seven under, Schwartzel recorded just one bogey in his round of 65 while Browne jumped up the leaderboard with an eagle at the par-five 16th.
But the round of the orning belonged to Loar, who recorded nine birdies, an eagle and just one bogey to reduce the course record by a shot.
South African Abery had already equalled the old record with his round of 63, which made him the early tournament leader, but Texan Loar went one better.
The American’s round started with a birdie at the 10th and an eagle at the 13th moved his score onto three under par after just four holes.
A birdie at the next was followed by a dropped shot at the 15th, although Loar immediately claimed that shot back at the next hole. Another birdie at the 18th left him five under at the turn.
Loar remained consistent on the next nine holes, picking up shots at the first and second as well as another pair of birdies at the fourth and fifth holes before closing with four pars to finish off his record-breaking round.