SHANGHAI • World No. 6 golfer Justin Rose is the leader of the pack trying to chase down Rory McIlroy at the top of the Race to Dubai standings, after an opening five-under 67 in the BMW Masters yesterday.
Spain's Sergio Garcia leads the US$7 million (S$10 million) event in Shanghai after a 64 but Danny Willett, just 74,213 points behind McIlroy at the penultimate event of the European Tour season, had a disappointing 72.
"I was only one-under through 11," said Rose, who is seeking a double on Chinese soil having won in his last outing at the Hong Kong Open last month.
"I could see a lot of the other guys were going low today and I tried to urge myself to sort of get it to three- or four-under for the round, and actually beat my own expectations and finished five-under.
"Very happy with how I played the last seven or eight holes, and it was a good day's work in the end."
McIlroy is sitting out the BMW Masters, leaving him in a precarious position atop the Race to Dubai standings as challengers close in behind him.
The world No. 3 will return for next week's season finale - the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai - as he attempts to be crowned Europe's top golfer for the second year running.
Englishman Willett carded a best-of-the-week 62 on Sunday to finish third in the WGC-HSBC Champions across Shanghai at Sheshan International Golf Club but he could not reproduce that form yesterday.
"It was a strange one last week, the game's not felt great," said the world No. 22.
He needs to finish 28th or better this week to overtake McIlroy but lies tied 48th after the first round.
"Just couldn't quite get things going today. Drove it well. Didn't hit it close enough to make anything. Just a very stale day, " he added.
World No. 11 Garcia carded nine birdies and a single bogey on his debut at Lake Malaren to lead by one stroke from South Korea's An Byeong Hun and France's Victor Dubuisson, who is in fine form after winning the Turkish Airlines Open a fortnight ago.
"Conditions were quite good, not much wind," said the Spaniard.
"A little bit of a drizzle but, other than that, it was good."
Apart from Rose and Willett, none of the other three players who can knock McIlroy off his perch this week made a significant move on a windless day.
Greens softened by rain made for good scoring conditions, with 38 of the 78-man field breaking par.
Shane Lowry of Ireland, third in the Race to Dubai, had a 70 for a share of 24th place as did South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen who is fourth in the standings. Both of them, and Rose, need to finish second at least to overtake McIlroy.
Oosthuizen's fellow South African Branden Grace, who is sixth and needs a win this week to move ahead of McIlroy, was one shot worse on 71.
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