RYDER Cup team-mates Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell matched each other virtually shot-for-shot to share the first-round lead at the Maybank Malaysian Open.
The pair – who shared a ninth-placed finish in Dubai last week – both carded rounds of six-under-par 66.
They each recorded their only bogey at the 420-yard sixth hole, and ended up one shot clear of England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
Their impressive first rounds were no surprise as McDowell, 20th in the world, and defending champion Westwood, ranked No 30, are the two highest-ranked players in the field at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher is three shots behind after a 69 and compatriot Marc Warren is a shot further back.
Westwood, starting at the tenth, had four birdies to the turn while McDowell, playing in the group behind, had three.
McDowell birdied the first and second to be five under through 11 with Westwood reaching a similar score after 12.
Westwood missed a six-foot par putt at the sixth – McDowell failed to get up and down from the front of that green – but holed from six-feet at the seventh and from 20 feet at the ninth. McDowell also birdied those holes and could have been sole leader had he not missed from five feet at the eighth.
“I putted very nicely and started the ball on line well,” Englishman Westwood told europeantour.com aferwards. “I left a couple short in the middle when I was fooled by the grain, but overall I’m very happy. It’s probably the toughest I’ve ever seen this golf course play.”
Northern Ireland’s McDowell was more satisfied with his form off the tee. He said: “I’m pretty happy. I hit the ball great today – drove it well and gave myself a lot of looks for birdie. I’ve liked the way this golf course looks from the start,” added McDowell. “I enjoyed playing it this morning with good company from the boys. It’s a solid start.”
Fleetwood holed a lengthy birdie putt at the eighth and is tied on 67 with home hope Danny Chia and South Korea’s Kan Sung-hoon.