Graeme McDowell likes a tough golf course, and Sheshan International in Shanghai was perfect for him Thursday. He opened with seven birdies in 12 holes and then hung on for a five-under-par 67 and a two-shot lead after the first round of the HSBC Champions.
The course course was tougher than ever with ankle-deep rough and fairways that are not nearly as wide. That didn’t seem to bother McDowell, who only once had to contend with the thick grass.
Rickie Fowler also got off to a fast start before he settled down for a 69, joining a group that included U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, Brandt Snedeker, Tim Clark, Chris Kirk and Tommy Fleetwood.
The wind was strong and out of the opposite direction, which added to the demanding conditions.
Jordan Spieth began his new PGA Tour season with two straight bogeys and had to save par with a long bunker shot on his third hole. He scratched his way back and wound up in a large group at 70 that featured Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson.
It didn’t take much for players to get going in the wrong direction.
FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel made a pair of double bogeys, only one birdie and shot an 80.
Only 27 players in the 78-man field broke par, compared with 37 players under par on the first day last year when the winning score was 24-under 264.
Sebastian Cappelen shot a seven-under 65 in his first PGA Tour round to take the lead in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.
The 24-year-old Cappelen, from Denmark, opened with a bogey at the Country Club of Jackson and made eight birdies to take a two-shot lead over Robert Streb, Scott Pinckney and Canada’s Nick Taylor.
Cappelen, playing on a sponsor exemption, was an All-American in college at Arkansas. He won the Air Capital Classic in June on the Web.com Tour.
Streb is back in contention two weeks after winning the McGladrey Classic for his first PGA Tour title.
Defending champion Woody Austin had a 70.
Play was suspended because of darkness with 15 players unable to finish.