Shanghai, China – South Africa’s Branden Grace shot a 9-under par 63 to claim the first round lead, after the opening round of the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions at the
Fresh off an impressive 5-0-0 record at this year’s President’s Cup, Grace put up nine birdies in his bogey-free round, going out in 32 before recording a sizzling 31 on the back side.
“The Presidents Cup was a big boost for me,” said Grace. “Coming into these events, knowing that I’m sixth (in the Race to Dubai), I know one good week can change everything and I’m giving it a last final push. There’s a lot still to play for.”
The 27-year old has a one shot lead over a trio of players who probably weren’t on many people list of picks heading into the tournament. American Kevin Kisner, Norwegian Thorbjorn Olesen and Australia’s Steven Bowditch are tied for second, after matching 64’s in round number one.
Kinsner got around Sheshan without a bogey, while Olesen and Bowditch had nine birdies and a single dropped shot. Olesen looked like he might go much lower after opening with a 30 on the front side, but a bogey on the par 5 14th derailed his momentum.
Olesen admitted to thinking about a really special round after the fast start.
“It was brilliant. I really had it going down the front nine. I think after nine, I thought about that 60 number.”
Past Champion Near the Lead
2013 HSBC Champion, Dustin Johnson headlines a group of three players at 7-under par 65. He is joined at that number by fellow American Patrick Reed and England’s Danny Willett.
Johnson’s round included an eagle on the Par 5 second hole, a bogey on the 16th and six birdies.
Two Chinese players are in the Top 10 after round one, adding to the excitement for those in attendance. Haotong Li is alone in eighth place after a solid 66, while his compatriot Xinjun Zhang is one of seven players tied for ninth place after a 67 in the opening round.
Favorites in Contention
While not at the top of the leader board, most of the pre-tournament favorites are still very much in contention. PGA Tour player of the year Jordan Spieth, defending HSBC Champion Bubba Watson, former world number one Rory McIlroy and Players Champion Rickie Fowler were in a large group of players at 4-under par 68, just five shots off the early pace.
McIlroy, recovering from food poisoning, was pleasantly surprised with his solid start. “Probably a little better than I was expecting out there, to be honest,” McIlroy said. “Thankfully, it was a decent start and now going to try to just get into the tournament.”
Check out pgatour.com for complete first round results.
Round number two is scheduled for Thursday evening in North America, with coverage on the Golf Channel starting at 10:00pm EST.