8am Round-Up: Russell Knox opens WGC title defence with 66

Defending champion Russell Knox shelters under his umbrella during the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Picture: Getty Images

Defending champion Russell Knox shelters under his umbrella during the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Picture: Getty Images

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Russell Knox made an excellent start as he launched his defence of the WGC-HSBC Champions title in Shanghai today.

The Scot featured in the best scoring group of the day at rainy Sheshan International along with American Rickie Fowler and Englishman Paul Casey.

Knox, who became the first Scot to claim one of the WGC titles on the same course 12 months ago, opened with a bogey-free six-under-par 66.

Starting at the 10th, the world No 20 lit the fuse on his effort with four birdies in a row from the 14th before then picking up further shots at the third and seventh.

He is sitting a shot behind Fowler after the 2015 Scottish Open champion birdied the ninth - their last hole - with Casey signing for a 65.

Alex Noren, this year’s Scottish Open winner, signed for a 68.

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Fresh from his best peformance of the season on the European Tour - fifth behind Padraig Harrington in the Portugal Masters - Paul Lawrie stormed to victory in a North-East Alliance event at Montrose Links.

Playing with the new V6 Wilson Golf irons - the same ones used by Harrington in Vilamoura last week - Lawrie fired a six-under-par 66 to finish five shots clear of the field.

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David Drysdale is up to first reserve for next week’s Turkish Airlines Open - the first of this season’s Final Series on the European Tour.

The Eyemouth-attached player now looks a certainty to join Marc Warren and Richie Ramsay in the $7 million event at its new venue, Regnum Carya in Belek.

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Clydeway Golf’s Graham Fox is lurking ominously heading into the final round of the PGA Play-Offs at Saunton in Devon.

The former Scottish PGA champion carded a three-under 68 to move to second place on four-under, three behind English leader Matt Cort.

Fox recovered from an opening bogey to make birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and 15th.

A top-10 finish will secure Fox a spot in next year’s BMW PGA Championship while the top three automatically qualifying for the 2017 Great Britain & Ireland team which is captained by Scot Albert MacKenzie.

“The golden carrot is dangling for you but I couldn’t care less at the moment, I’ll just go out and play and it will be what it will be,” said Fox.

Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Inchmarlo) sits joint-fifth on one-under after a 72 while Anglo Scot Ian Campbell (Cheshunt Park) is in a share of 10th following a 71.

North Lanarkshire Leisure’s Paul O’Hara, the other Scot in the field, slipped to joint-20th after a 75.

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Gullane assistant pro Keir McNicoll carded a two-under-par 70 at Duddingston to win the Bootland Trophy in the latest East Alliance event of the season.

He finished a shot ahead of amateur trio Kieran Cantley (Liberton), Jim Gordon (Royal Burgess) and Donny Munro (Kingsknowe).

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Jack Doherty (Rowalln Castle) jumped to joint-seventh thanks to a closing 68 in the MENA Tour’s Ghala Open in Oman.

In an event won by German Aaron Leitmannstetter, Jack McDonald was next best among the Scots in a share of 15th after Clarke Lutton slipped to a tie for 20th following his last-round 75.

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