Golf: Hot putter puts Randhawa in Hong Kong Open lead

(REUTERS) - Former Asia No. 1 Jyoti Randhawa wielded a hot putter to grab the opening-round lead at the Hong Kong Open on Thursday, while Nicolas Colsaerts and Ernie Els were also off to a strong start at the Fanling course.

Randhawa, 42, began with a bogey but went on to reel off seven birdies to lead Angelo Que of the Philippines by one shot, needing only 23 putts in the opening round of the European Tour co-sanctioned event.

"I've been playing decent in the last few weeks but haven't been able to put up a good number," said the 2002 Asian Tour No. 1 from India, who finished with two consecutive closing birdies for a six-under-par 64.

"Today I really putted my heart out, so I'm really happy with the way it went, and I'm glad I got the pace on the greens right," said Randhawa, who remains winless since claiming his eighth Asian Tour title in 2009.

A three-time winner in Asia, Que too rode on his impeccable putting to a bogey-free round to boost his hopes of a first title since the 2010 Selangor Masters in Malaysia.

"I putted like a maniac today. I holed a lot of six footers for pars on the first few holes then I started to hit it better and holed a few more putts. I haven't had a bogey free round this year and it is already October," said the 35-year-old.

Big-hitting Colsaerts shrugged off jetlag to card a four-under par 66 to share third place with, among others, four-time Major winner Els. "I'm quite happy with my score," said the Belgian Ryder Cup player, continuing his fine form that saw him finish fourth in Wales and second in Portugal in his last two starts.

"I'm waking up in the middle of the night - I didn't do a very good job with the jetlag so I think I'm going to be waking up early most of the week but it's fine," added Colsaerts after sinking five birdies against a lone bogey.

Els mixed six birdies and two bogeys in his return to Hong Kong after 18 years and was left to rue the missed putts. "You want to have a good round the first day. It's easy to shoot yourself out of it," said the towering South African.

"At first there's quite a lot of pressure and then you take it from there. Each day, it's like a session in cricket. You take the session and do as best as you can, and then it all happens on Sunday afternoon," he said.

Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, looking for a record fifth title here, battled a stomach bug to card a 72.