(Reuters) - American Patrick Reed carded a blemish-free eight-under-par 64 to surge to the top of the leaderboard after the opening round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Thursday.
Teeing it up for the first time since Ryder Cup, the reigning Masters champion showed no signs of rust as he made four birdies to make the turn in 32 before gains on the first three holes ensured he steered clear of the chasing pack.
Reed holed an 18-footer on his final hole to take a two-shot lead as he signed for a near-perfect opening round in windy conditions at the Sheshan International Golf Club.
“It feels great,” the 28-year-old said. “To be able to come out here and to be the first event back and to feel like I hit the ball really solid. I had full control, especially with how windy it was today.
“It felt really good because if you can go out and shoot rounds like that in these kind of conditions, you know you’re going to have confidence when the wind dies down and there are perfect conditions out there.”
Fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau were the closest challenger at six-under, while Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who won the European Masters last month, finished a short further back for fourth spot.
Fitzpatrick’s compatriot Tommy Fleetwood, Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, American Billy Horschel and Taiwan’s C.T. Pan were tied for fifth at four-under as several big names struggled in testing conditions.
Rory McIlroy had to trust his instincts and play a shot with alternate hand to salvage a double-bogey on his way to a mixed-bag 72.
The world number five, beginning on the back nine, sprayed his tee shot near a large trunk on the par-four 16th, giving him no room for a right-handed swing.
The Northern Irishman turned the club face to connect a left-handed clearance on his way to dropping two shots but recovered well with four birdies on the front nine to finish eight strokes off the pace.
Brooks Koepka, who was making his debut as the world number one, made one birdie and one bogey in his round of 72.
Defending champion Justin Rose was left fuming after a bogey on the final hole for a 69.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty