Graeme McDowell made a positive start to the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren, carding a two under par round of 70.
This week’s event is the first of four tournaments which make up the inaugural Final Series, with Henrik Stenson holding a lead of €425,573 ove McDowell at the top of The Race to Dubai.
With a first prize of €850,000 on offer here and a total prize fund of over US $30,000,000 in the four events, the battle to become European Number One in Dubai is far from over.
Stenson still holds all the aces after a level par round of 72, but McDowell showed he has the stomach for the fight with a battling round of 70 in tough conditions.
The highlight of the Ulsterman’s round came at the 13th hole, where he holed a monster putt for eagle.
He said: “I’m pretty happy after five weeks off. I hit it a little bit better in practice than I was expecting to, and today was just a really tough day.
“It was just a real case of hanging in there as much as possible in very, very tough conditions.
“The greens were firm and fast and it was very, very windy, so I’m pretty happy with that to be honest.”
His compatriot and playing partner Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, was delighted with the way he drove the ball in a round of 71 which, according to the World Number Six, ‘could easily have been two or three shots lower’.
He added: “Everything’s sort of falling back into place. It feels good to feel so positive about my game.
“I keep giving myself chances and hopefully I can hole a few more putts. But it’s a nice way to start the week.
“From tee to green, it was really solid, and as I say, it could have been better. But on a day like today, it’s just good to keep yourself there or thereabouts.
“Luke shot 65, but the next two are on four and three under, so I’m in a pretty good position.”
A trio of Americans dominate the top of the leaderboard on the first day of the BMW Masters presented by SRE Group, with Luke Guthrie leading an American 1-2-3 courtesy of a spectacular round of 65 in blustery conditions at Lake Malaren Golf Club.
Guthrie’s flawless opening effort included just 19 putts and two chip-ins, and saw him establish a three-shot lead over his compatriot John Daly, who was in turn one shot clear of Peter Uihlein.
Guthrie made the 7,000 mile journey to Shanghai after finishing in a tie for fifth place in last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, where he closed with a round of 64.
“It was a great day,” said Guthrie, who took just 19 putts.
“I’ve been playing solid, hitting it a lot better and have been getting a lot out of my rounds again, which is nice.
“This is my first time here in Asia, and I just wanted to challenge myself by coming abroad and getting used to the travel, so I can keep gaining experience and trying to become a global player.”
Padraig Harrington carded a level par 72, but Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry both struggled to rounds of 77 and 78 respectively.