Golf: Wang makes solid start as he defends Qatar title

Wang looks on during the first round of the Qatar Masters golf tournament.
Wang looks on during the first round of the Qatar Masters golf tournament.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DOHA (AFP) - Defending champion Jeunghun Wang finished just three shots off the lead on the opening day of the Qatar Masters on Thursday (Feb 22), shooting a four-under-par 68.

The South Korean, who won in an exciting three-way play-off last year, finished three shots off the leaders, England's Eddie Pepperell and Aaron Rai, and France's Gregory Havret who all shot 65.

"I was putting well and that's definitely the key," said Havret, who has not won since 2008.

Rai's seven-under round equalled the lowest total he has ever shot on the European Tour.

Just a shot further back from that trio were a group of four players, including Italy's Edoardo Molinari, who hit seven birdies and one bogey in his final 10 holes, to card a six-under-par 66.

One shot behind them were seven players on five under, including Belgium's Thomas Detry and Sean Crocker of the US.

Also in the mix was Paul Lawrie, a double champion in Qatar who, like Wang, shot four under.

Those two made up a group of 24 players who shot 68.

Conditions were calm in Doha, where players usually have to battle a strong wind, but there was rain in Qatar on Thursday for the first time in 11 months.