SHANGHAI (AFP) - European Ryder Cup stars Justin Rose and Jamie Donaldson both endured an up-and-down day, as the BMW Masters got under way in Shanghai on Thursday.
Donaldson shot a four-under round of 68 to lie just three off the lead, despite a double-bogey seven at the third and the unlikeliest of birdies at the sixth.
Rose ended on level par after a disastrous start that left him four over after just four holes.
Beginning at the 10th, Rose was already one-over par when he found water twice en route to a triple-bogey eight at the par-five 13th.
"I hit a great three-iron right at the flag. In the air it looked like eagle and it came up a yard short," he told AFP afterwards.
"I drop another ball, hit the exact same golf shot from 15 yards further up looking at saving par and same happens again."
The 2013 US Open champion fought back gamely with five birdies and just one more bogey on his card to finish the day at level par. "I didn't hit a bad golf shot and made an eight. I was one swing away from shooting four-under," he said.
Donaldson was sure his tee shot had found the water guarding the front of the green at the par-three 202-yard sixth.
But the ball had somehow stuck in the thick rough on a steep bank just inches from the hazard and he then gratefully holed the 35-foot chip for a birdie to get to four-under.
"I never thought it was going to get over. I absolutely, totally, mishit it," the Welshman admitted.
"I was a bit embarrassed when the chip went in for a birdie."
There was steady rain all day at Lake Malaren, making the long course even tougher.
But young Frenchman Alexander Levy made light of conditions and showed his liking for golf in China to lead by one stroke from three players with a seven-under round of 65.
Unlike Rose, the 24-year-old Levy who won the China Open in Shenzhen earlier this year, got off to a blistering start after starting at the 10th with four straight birdies.
He picked up further shots on the 17th, the second and ninth holes in a flawless round.
"I think today I missed only one fairway and that was the key," said Levy.
Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell enjoyed a fine bogey-free opening round of 67 to be two off the lead.
"Very happy with that," the Ulsterman said. "It's playing long with the rain so I had to be precise with my iron play and putt well, which I did."
Chinese 19-year-old sensation Li Haotong, who won the OneAsia Tour's Nanshan China Masters earlier this month, continued his great form with a three-under par 69 in elite company for a share of 12th place.
Eduardo Molinari claimed the first hole-in-one of the tournament when the Italian found the cup on the 212-yard fourth hole.
Unfortunately a shiny new BMW i8 sports car was the prize for an ace at the 17th and he had to make do with a radio-controlled model from the sponsors and a magnum of champagne.
"Now I have the little car, I want to win the big one," he said.