Nick Watney takes early two-shot lead in WGC-HSBC Champions
America's Nick Watney was the early leader in the WGC-HSBC Champions. The 28-year-old winner of this year's Buick Invitational raced from the starting post - the 10th in his case - with three birdies and an eagle in his first six holes.
Three more pars and he was out in 31 against the par of 36 on his way to the 64 which left him two ahead of Ryan Moore, Martin Kaymer and Shane Lowry.
Tiger Woods, four under par with two to play, closed at five under, while Phil Mickelson finished his day at three under. At the start, Watney could not miss on the Sheshan greens. "They were so good," he marvelled. "Whenever you hit your putt on line it was going in."
There was no putt involved in his eagle at the par five 14th.... Had he been back in Las Vegas, he would have opted for a three-iron for his second but, having discovered in practice that the ball does not travel as far in this part of the world, he opted instead for his hybrid. His ball finished just right of the green - and he chipped in for his three.
Asked how he felt when he moved to nine under par after 13 holes, Watney claimed that he had no trouble in keeping things in perspective. "Since this was only the first day, I was not remotely jumpy. I just tried to focus on the next two holes because there's trouble out there," he said.
His views were much the same about going into the second round ahead of Woods and the rest. "If this were Saturday," he said, "I don't know how well I'd be sleeping but to be where I am on the first day is OK."
Woods opened what is his third HSBC Champions by driving into the right rough at the 10th and knocking his second into sand. He followed up with a bunker shot to eight feet and holed for the par. Typical Tiger.
It was precisely what had left such an impression on Ross Fisher when he first played with this great champion two years ago in Dubai. "Tiger's got this amazing mental strength," he marvelled. "He hits his bad shots but somehow he always goes on to make up for them."
The crowds were out in force for the trio of Woods, Fisher and Thongchai Jaidee. In 2005, the tournament's first year, watching golf was a new experience. Five years on and the locals have no problem in identifying the great shots from the good. When, for instance, Woods caught a fairway bunker down the long 14th and hit his 70 yard recovery to ten feet, the applause was in keeping with the feat.
All morning, small children were being ushered to the front of the crowd, their excitement no doubt enhanced by the recent confirmation that golf will be an Olympic sport in 2016.
Anthony Kim was one of the first to post a good score. He had a 12-footer at the last which got away but was happy enough to have returned a 67 on a course where he had not had time for a practice round.
Such were his visa problems that he only arrived at Sheshan at 1.30 on Wednesday morning. He slept until three in the afternoon and in retrospect felt that was the best possible thing. During the course of the Volvo World Match Play, where he lost to Fisher in the final, he had played 100 plus holes and was pretty well exhausted. "I needed the rest," he said.
Rest, he has decided, is from now on going to have a higher priority in his golfing life. He explained how he had not given himself enough space between the 2008 and 2009 seasons and, as a result, had had a season peppered with injury problems. Hence the reason he has pulled out of the last lap of the Race to Dubai, though he has promised to play more golf in Europe next year.
As Woods has said, getting a schedule right is something which you ever master in the first few years. "It's not something you can learn in college. It's something you learn from experience."
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