Fans Made To Feel At Home On The Range At Sheshan International
There are very few chances to share a practice range with the world’s greatest players, but that is effectively what is on offer at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament at Sheshan International this week.
It is always obvious where the star names are to be found by the number of spectators craning their necks for a view, or taking photographs on their smart phones, of a player going through his warm-up routine.
Many fans were gathered around defending champion Justin Rose this morning as he prepared to set off in the second round. Alongside him were Patrick Reed, the Masters champion and first round leader, and Tommy Fleetwood, the reigning European No.1. And alongside them was a collection of locals – some schooled in the game, others trying it for the first time – indulging in a challenge called Beat The Pro.
With three greens to aim at the challenge is to land the ball as near to the pin as possible in three attempts. Many can’t resist coming back for a second try, for which they are welcome, with the best of the day winning a chauffeur-driven trip back into Shanghai in a swish Mercedes-Benz. Most impressive is that the distance the ball carries, and its proximity to the hole on landing, is measured by the kind of cutting edge technology used by the top professionals standing just a few metres away. It’s a challenge that is almost too good to miss.
Another fascinating day of play was being anticipated before the players set off in the second round. The first round was memorable for a breath-taking performance from Reed, whose eight-under-par round of 64 in gusting winds seemed barely credible. It was soon obvious, however, that we were in for more of the same today.
Making an early charge was Tony Finau, Reed’s US Ryder Cup team-mate, who picked up four strokes in his first eight holes to move to ten under par and in a share of the lead with Reed, who carried on where he had left off the day before with two birdies in his first three holes. The two Americans led the field by four strokes at this stage, which is a good lead but by no means an insurmountable one.