The only three Americans in the 78-man field were easy to find after the opening round of the BMW Masters in Shanghai – they were all at the top of the leaderboard.
Luke Guthrie flew halfway around the world for one week, hopeful he would at least broaden his experience by playing golf on foreign soil. He got more than he expected. The 23-year-old American took 19 putts – one short of the European Tour record – chipped in twice and had a seven-under 65.
Not only did Guthrie have a three-shot lead, his score was more than 9.67 shots better than the course average. “It was one of the better rounds I’ve ever played,” Guthrie said.
Even more surprising was the guy right behind him – John Daly, playing for the first time since surgery in July to repair the torn tendon in his right elbow. After a strict rehabilitation of icing the elbow and drinking enough chocolate milk to put on seven kilos, Daly navigated the strong wind at Lake Malaren without a bogey for a 68. “I gained a little bit of weight, but when you take 15 or 16 weeks off, you’re going to,” Daly said.
His mother once told him that Vitamin D milk was a cure for any ailment. Adding the chocolate was Daly’s idea.
Another shot back was Peter Uihlein, the only American who didn’t seem out of place at this event – the first of four tournaments called “The Final Series,” all with at least $7 million (£4.3m) in prize money as European Tour members make their way to Dubai for the end of the season.
Graeme McDowell, who is trying to chase down Henrik Stenson for the lead in the Race to Dubai, was among those at two under with Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee and Gregory Bourdy after they shot 70s. Stenson, who played with McDowell and Rory McIlroy, opened with a 72, with McIlroy one shot better off after a 71. McIlroy had a pair of three-putt bogeys but was pleased with his play from tee-to-green.
McDowell said he was looking like “the Rory McIlroy of 2011, 2012,” alluding to when the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland won two majors, each by eight shots. “It’s a bit ominous,” he said of the ease in McIlroy’s swing.
As for the Scots, Craig Lee is in a tie for fourth after a 70, while Scott Jamieson went round in 72, Marc Warren carded a one-over 73, Paul Lawrie shot a 74 and Stephen Gallacher struggled to a five-over 77.
In Malaysia, Ryan Moore had ten birdies to shoot a nine-under 63 and take a two-shot lead after the opening round of the CIMB Classic, while Scotland’s Martin Laird shot a four-under 68
American Moore is coming off a top-ten finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas last weekend – a tournament he won last year. He has now had five consecutive rounds under 70. “It was really just a huge bonus,” Moore said. “These are events like Vegas, that’s home for me, and then this event which I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years. They’re events I would play anyway so just the fact that they count, that’s huge.”
Keegan Bradley had seven birdies to finish two strokes behind in second place at seven-under 65, and Sergio Garcia was another shot behind at six under. Phil Mickelson was in a share of 21st place after two errant drives off the tee – one into waist-high rough fringing the fairway, the other into the water – led to double-bogeys and a score of one-under 71.
Playing for the first time since the Presidents Cup, he said his swing is as bad as it’s been “in a long time”.
“I’m swinging awful. I’m swinging terribly at the ball,” he said. “The lead for me right now is irrelevant. It’s so far off that that’s the last thing on my mind because I just don’t know where the ball is going.”
Ernie Els slumped to 70th place at four over after a quadruple-bogey on the 14th hole.
On the LPGA Tour, defending champion Suzann Pettersen took an early lead in the $2m Sunrise Championship in Taiwan, as she presses her bid to overtake South Korea’s Inbee Park at the top of the rankings.
Pettersen carded a four-under 68 in the first round on the Sunrise course in the Taipei suburb of Yangmei. She had a three-stroke lead over Americans Alison Walshe and Irene Cho and Caroline Hedwall of Sweden with most of the players in the field having finished their rounds.
Even with a victory in Taiwan, Pettersen cannot overhaul Park this week. But a good result will set up a nail-biting finish to the LPGA season. Park is not participating in the Taiwan event.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew is three-over after a 75.