Matt Gilchrest. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
A year ago, Matt Gilchrest had a solid first season on PGA Tour Latinoamerica. While he didn't win, the Auburn University product contended numerous times and finished eighth on the Order of Merit. After one round at the Sanya Championship, the second event of the PGA Tour Series-China season, and on the strength of an 8-under 64, Gilchrest looks ready to take home victory on PGA Tour Series-China as he takes a a one-shot lead into the second round.
England's Michael Skelton, shot a 65 to lie in solo second, one ahead of South Korea's Daejin Jeong and the American duo of Sejun Yoon and Max McGreevy, the latter already off to a great run in China after he finished alone in fourth at last week's Chongqing Championship.
Jung Woojin. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
Coming from "China's Mountain City" last week to "China's Hawaii" this week has forced players to adapt quickly to the different conditions, but Gilchrest felt right at home at Yalong Bay Golf Club, which he says reminds him of his home course in Dallas, Texas.
"The greens are a lot firmer this week compared to last week. It's a lot windier and less elevation. Last week was like walking up mountains, but it's pretty flat this week so the courses play very different," he explained. "My course where I practice is a lot like this. I think it was a great preparation for this week where I play at home at Trinity Forest because that course is a lot like here. So it's a good advantage."
Gilchrest, 24, has played on both the PGA Tour's other development Tours but found better results on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, where he recorded six top-10s and two-runner ups before his top-10 finish on the Order of Merit in 2018.
Now it appears Gilchrest has the strategy all worked out in China after a round that included seven birdies, one bogey and an eagle on the par-5 13th.
"I think you really have to be in control on this course because the wind can blow a lot. I think the greens are really firm, so you have to have the right angles off the tee to give yourself the makeable putts," said Gilchrest, who had no trouble in the wind. "I hit all 18 greens today, so I think that was really helpful. If I can do that again I think I'll like how that goes."
Also in the top-10 in a tie for sixth at 5-under are nine players from varied locales as South Korea, the US, Japan, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and Australia.
PGA TOUR Series-China 2018: First three of 14 events
March 25-31: Chongqing Championship, Poly Golf Club, Chongqing
April 1-7: Sanya Championship, Yalong Bay Golf Club, Sanya
April 8-14: Haikou Championship, Sunac Haikou 3 KM Golf Club, Haikou