The best season of Jamie Donaldson’s career could be about to get even better. Playing against four of the world’s top five and all but one of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup side, the 37-year-old Welshman began the BMW Masters in Shanghai with a course-record 62 to open up a four-stroke lead.
Medinah pair Peter Hanson and Francesco Molinari are in second place, with world No 1 Rory McIlroy, his fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal – 492nd in the world – tied for fourth five shots back.
Paul Lawrie birdied the last for a 69 to sit in a tie for 13th, while Richie Ramsay, the only other Scot in the elite 78-man field, opened with a 75.
After 254 European Tour events without a win, Donaldson finally broke his duck at the Irish Open in July. He is currently 51st in the world rankings and, at the end of the year, the top 50 earn invitations to The Masters in April. For a player who has only ever played in four majors and never been to Augusta, that is a huge incentive.
The former amateur international – he partnered Luke Donald and Paul Casey in a GB team which came second in the world championship in 2000 – is also on course for his highest-ever finish on the Tour money-list and up for grabs this weekend is a first prize of over £720,000.
“There’s a lot still to play for at this time of year,” Donaldson said after grabbing 10 birdies on the Lake Malaren lay-out. “But there’s an awesome field here, so I need to keep playing like that. It was one of those rounds where you hit everything where you want to hit it and I putted really well. The course suits me – the fairways are quite generous and, if you miss the bunkers, you can play aggressive golf.”
Nobody has led by more than four after one round all season and that lead is only two off the all-time Tour record set by Michael Campbell at the 2000 English Open.
Meanwhile, American Troy Matteson rounded off four closing birdies by holing a bunker shot to take a one-stroke lead after the opening day of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
As Matteson posted his eight-under-par 63 at The Mines, Tiger Woods recorded successive bogeys at the end of the front nine before an inward 31 that brought the 14-times major champion from eight back to only three behind.
Woods, returning to the course where he and Mark O’Meara won the World Cup in 1999, will resume his pursuit of a fourth win of the season in joint seventh place.
“Three or four under par was my number on the back nine,” the world No 2 said after three birdies in the last four. “If I could shoot that I’m still right in the ball game. I happened to get one more, which was a bonus.
“It’s going to take 20-plus this week to win the tournament, so I’ve got to be aggressive and we’ve got to go get it.”
Matteson, ranked 156th in the world, edged ahead of compatriots Robert Garrigus, Jeff Overton and Brian Harman in the 48-man PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
“The pin is really tricky on 18,” the 32-year-old two-times winner said. “I knew I’d be doing good if I could leave myself seven or eight feet for par and it bounced and slam-dunked in the hole. That’s the first time all year the ball has managed to hit the pin and stay in the hole.”
Scotland’s Martin Laird hit back from an opening bogey for a 68 but defending champion Bo Van Pelt, winner of the Perth International last Sunday, had to be content with a 70.