Volvo China Open: Three to play in the First Round Leader market

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Kiradech Aphibarnrat can go low again in round one

Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early at this week's Volvo China Open...

"The combination of history and weather suggests the early starters could have an edge."

Back Kiradech Aphibarnrat each-way @ 30/1

*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 6 Places

History: We have only two years of evidence but in 2017 Alexander Levy led the way from fellow early starter Pablo Larrazabal. In 2016, Hennie Otto's 63 took R1 honours. He'd teed off in the very first group of the day at 06:40 local.

Weather forecast: It's a warm, sunny day in Beijing with temperatures starting out at a very pleasant 70 degrees and rising to just over 80 in the afternoon. Perhaps the key though is that the winds pick up for the afternoon starters.

The combination of history and weather suggests the early starters could have an edge.

Thai can make another Barn-storming start

I'm going to kick off with a punt on Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who starts out in an all-star three-ball with Haotong Li and Alexander Levy - the last two winners at this venue - at 07:20.

As well as the preferred early tee-time, he sounds full of confidence going into this one after taking a couple of weeks off following a T44 at Augusta National.

Before that he'd led the way (R1 65) in a pillar-to-post victory in an Asian Development Tour event and, in elite company, posted an opening 66 to be in the top five after the first round of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Back in October, the Thai fired a 64 to lead after day one of the Italian Open and two weeks later, on his most recent start on the Chinese mainland, he handed in a Thursday 65 to be second after the first lap of the WGC-HSBC Champions.

The fast starts continued with a 66 on day one of the Turkish Airlines Open.

"The game's feeling fantastic. Everyone will know after this week (laughs)," he said on Wednesday.

"It's always nice to be back in China. I have won here before and my great-grandfather is from China. I feel refreshed for the week and I am ready for the challenge.

"I look forward to the week and I will try to play some low scores out there."

Past champ Li could lead the way

I'm also going to stay at the front of the market and have a punt on Haotong Li.

Li comes to life in front of his home Chinese crowds and in two starts at Topwin he has a victory and a tied 11th. In 2015 at Tomson he was tied for sixth and also made the top seven in that year's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

True, he did his best scoring on the weekend when winning in 2016 (R4 64) but he does have fast starts him in. Latest evidence? He was tied fourth after the opening round of The Masters. Not bad for a player on his Augusta National debut.

Li opened with a 66 when winning the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year and his confidence is sky high at the moment.

"The course is looking very nice. The greens are quite fast. The game's feeling good as well," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Everything looks in place for a big week and hopefully one that can get off to a fast start when he heads out at 07:20.

Peterson can pile up early birdies

I'll be a bit more ambitious with my final pick and side with proven quick starter Paul Peterson at 85/1.

The American left-hander was third after day one of the Indian Open last month thanks to a 67 and the week before had also been sat in the top 10 after Thursday's play following an opening 65 at the New Zealand Open.

He's actually shot 70 or lower in 12 of his last 13 opening 18s and last year he led the way at the Joburg Open after a first-round 62.

Also second after 18 holes of last summer's Scottish Open, Peterson enjoyed his last trip to this corner of the globe when runner-up in November's Hong Kong Open after shooting 65-67 on the weekend.

He got his first look at Topwin last year when tied 42nd but his week had started brightly enough with a 69 putting him tied 12th after day one.

The narrow fairways suit his accurate game and he could be able to make hay from his 07:00 tee-time.

Dave's 2017/18 R1 leader P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)

Staked: £120
Returned: £45
P/L: -£75
(After Valero Texas Open)

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