Fraser shines through the fog to grab Korean lead

MARCUS Fraser carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to post a one-shot clubhouse lead at the end of a weather-disrupted first day of the Ballantine's Championship.

The 31-year-old Australian failed to post a sub-70 round at last week's Volvo China Open but defied over six hours of delays to top the leaderboard ahead of Worksop's Mark Foster. Ted Oh led the local challenge at Pinx Golf Club and was a further shot off the pace alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Australia's Rick Kulacz.

Stephen Gallacher was the only one of the five Scots in the field to complete his round due to the delay. He signed for a 71, with David Drysdale also on one-under with three holes to play. Alastair Forsyth, who had also played 15 holes when play was suspended, was on level-par, with Marc Warren and Peter Whiteford among those who were unable to start their opening rounds.

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Donaldson and Kulacz are among the third of the field who will have to return today to complete their opening rounds due to heavy fog over Jeju island, which is situated off the Korean peninsula.

There were 66 players unable to even tee-off and they face the prospect of 36 holes today, although more fog is forecast over the next two days.

"I felt like I played really well last week in China, but I didn't putt very well," said Fraser, the 2003 Russian Open champion.

"It felt like it was very close and I felt like I practiced really well at the start of the week, so I was hoping for a good round to get going."

Fraser trailed playing partner Foster by one shot at the turn with the highlight for the Australian a 35-foot birdie putt which kick-started a hat-trick of birdies around the turn – a treble which was also matched by the Englishman.

Both added two birdies on the back nine, but Fraser edged ahead with Foster blotting his scorecard with two bogeys en route to a six under 66.

"I am very pleased," added Fraser. "I feel like I drove it very well and putted really well. I gave myself a lot of chances on the greens and managed to make a few.

"The difference from last week was just basically the putter. I managed to make some putts – instead of walking up and tapping them in, they managed to go in and it's a much better feeling than just sliding by the hole all the time."

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Singapore-based Foster – like Fraser a one-time European Tour winner – showed glimpses of a return to form with a second round 64 in China last week after last posting a top-ten finish in August 2008.

And the 2003 Dunhill Championship winner, who did finish last season with an 11th place at the Hong Kong Open, looked on course to establish a healthy first-round advantage with an early eagle boosting his cause until a wayward putter halted his charge on the back nine as temperatures dropped and the skies darkened.

"It was very frustrating coming off early as I was four under after six," he said. "But I was pleased with that more than anything, the way I kept restarting. Every time we went back out, I started well.

"I had to go back out there three times; so that was probably the most pleasing part of the day. I got going early and Marcus took over on the back nine and almost kept me going really.

"I couldn't hole any putts on the back nine so I dragged him along on the front and he seemed to drag me along on the back, so it worked well."

Oliver Fisher posted a fourth straight top-ten finish last week after losing his card last year and continued a fine run of form with a bogey-free 68.

The Madeira Islands Open runner-up was tied for sixth in a group alongside in-form duo Ernie Els and Anthony Kim.

A weary Els took a week off after a top-20 finish at the Masters and an energy-sapping but rewarding run which featured wins at the WGC-CA Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. "I shot a 68 so happy to get done, it was a long day," said the 40-year-old South African.

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"We started this morning at seven and we finished at six, so it was a long day.

Kim, who finished sixth on Jeju island two years ago, followed up a third US PGA Tour title of his career at the Shell Houston Open with a third-placed finish at Augusta and matched Fisher's flawless first round. He said "I stayed patient and I'm happy with how I played, I just didn't score very well."