Brooks Koepka, the US Open champion, led the way on a low-scoring opening day in the HSBC Champions but Richie Ramsay’s return to a World Golf Championship saw him unable to break par in China.
Koepka, who has never looked back since securing a European Tour card with victory in the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge at Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore in 2013, carded an eagle and seven birdies in an eight-under-par 64.
That earned the American a one-shot lead over Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Gavin Green from Malaysia, with Koepka’s compatriot, Patrick Reed, and South African Haydn Porteous both a shot further back at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.
Koepka began his round on the back nine and birdied the 14th, 16th and 17th before holing from 20 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th to reach the turn in 31.
The 27-year-old also birdied the first before three-putting the third, but bounced back to pick up shots on the fourth, seventh and eighth, the latter coming in unlikely fashion.
“It was an interesting hole to say the least,” said Koepka after his round. “It was an awful 3-iron (off the tee), hit it in the water and was lucky enough or fortunate enough to at least be able to hit it and advance it.
“And then to hit 3-wood in there to 15 feet and then make the putt, we were laughing. It was almost kind of like destiny to make that putt for how lucky we were that whole hole.”
Olympic champion Justin Rose is handily placed on 67, sitting alongside Rio Games bronze medallist Matt Kuchar, as well as British Masters champion Paul Dunne, American Tony Finau and home player Ashun Wu.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson opened with a 68, as did Scottish Open champion Rafa Cabrera Bello, back-to-back Dunhill Links winner Tyrrell Hatton and 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson.
Ramsay, the sole Scot in the field for an event won by his compatriot, Russell Knox, two years ago, signed for two birdies - both 2s - at the 17th and sixth after starting at the 10th.
The Aberdonian is sitting joint-61st but has the likes of Branden Grace, Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher behind him at the end of the opening circuit.
Ramsay, who is playing in his first WGC event since the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational, wrote on Twitter: “Felt I actually played okay today, standard high and helps if u got 120mph+ speed with the driver.”