McDowell grabs 2-stroke lead in Shanghai

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 Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland hits the ball on the 9th hole during the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai yesterday.

Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell made a flying, seven-birdie start to grab a two-shot lead after the first round of the US$8.5-million WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai yesterday.

McDowell coped well with a fluctuating breeze and thick rough at Sheshan Golf Club to fire a 5-under-par 67 after two late bogeys spoilt his card.

He headed a group of six players on 69 that included current US Open champion Martin Kaymer and consistent American Rickie Fowler.

World No. 2 Adam Scott of Australia was a further shot back after a 70 with 10 others, including the England pair of former world No. 1 Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, who won this tournament two years ago when it played at Mission Hills in Shenzhen, but it was a miserable day for recent US PGA Tour FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel, who flung his ball into a water hazard in disgust at his final hole after shooting an error-strewn 80.

McDowell is not the longest of hitters and he prefers courses where birdies are hard to come by, so he was delighted when he arrived in Shanghai to find plenty of thick rough on a track that traditionally had yielded low scores.

"A big key to this course is driving the ball well (and) I drove it very well today," the world No. 17, who finished third here last year, told reporters.

"I think I missed only one fairway (and that) set up a few opportunities. The greens are in fantastic shape and I actually putted very well, so 7 under par through 12 holes was a beautiful start.

"I dropped a couple coming in but all in all, very, very pleased with 5 under on what I thought was a reasonably tricky day."

McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, said he did not expect the winning score to be better than 12-under on Sunday.

McDowell lies 16th on the European Tour's Race to Dubai and needs a high finish at Sheshan to achieve his goal of getting a shot at a US$5 million bonus pool for the top 15 players after the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in a fortnight's time.

It was a good start for another of Europe's Ryder Cup winning side with teammate Kaymer showing little sign of rust. This is the German's first official tournament since the September team event. He was even par after 10 holes, but remained patient and was rewarded with a strong finish.

"I just kept telling myself, you enjoy the golf course so much, and you will have plenty of birdie chances, so you just need to wait," he said. "Fortunately, it turned out well."

But the day did not turn out so well for American Kevin Stadler (wrist) and Canadian Graham DeLaet (back), who both withdrew during the round.

American Jason Dufner incurred a one-stroke penalty when he absent-mindedly picked up his ball to clean it on the 18th hole, apparently forgetting that the "lift, clean and place" rule was not being used. He shot 72.

Dufner played last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia where the rule was used due to the damp course conditions.

In New Delhi, India's Rahil Gangjee shot a 6-under-par 66 to seize a two-shot lead after the opening round of the US$300,000 Panasonic Open yesterday.

Gangjee, seeking his first Asian Tour title since his victory in China in 2004, birdied the last two holes to emerge on top at the Delhi Golf Club.

Defending champion Wade Ormsby of Australia was tied for second place on 68 with Singapore's Choo Tze Huang, Bangladeshi Zamal Hossain and Rashid Khan of India.

Thai Jazz Janewattananond and Australia's Unho Park were among seven players on 69, three shots off the pace in the event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India.

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