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Published: Thursday November 15, 2012 MYT 1:58:00 PM

Jimenez makes early Hong Kong running

HONG KONG - Veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez set the early pace at the $2 million UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday, taking the clubhouse lead after posting a first-round five-under-par 65 studded with seven birdies.

Reigning champion and world number one Rory McIlroy was one over through two holes. He teed off at lunchtime, along with the young Italian Matteo Manassero, winner at the Barclays Singapore Open last week.

The Spaniard Jimenez, 48, who is bidding to become the European Tour's oldest winner, started his assault at the Hong Kong Golf Club with three birdies in his first three holes.

Under warm and sunny conditions, he was set for an even better start to a tournament he has won twice before, but two bogeys in the last two holes took the gloss off his sizzling performance.

"I played very solid all day long," said Jimenez, who was vice-captain of Europe's triumphant Ryder Cup team. "The finish was the only thing not very nice.

"I like the golf course. I first won here in 2004 and then in 2007. It's an old-fashioned golf course and I like it here very much."

Des Smyth currently holds the record for the oldest victory on the European Tour, courtesy of his win at the Madeira Islands Open aged 48 years and 34 days.

Zhang Lianwei, 47, the first Chinese golfer to win on the European Tour back in 2003, was on course to match Jimenez until he double-bogeyed his final hole.

He posted a 66 to tie second with Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal and the Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed. - AFP

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