SHANGHAI • If Patrick Reed felt any concern after stirring up controversy with comments about last month's Ryder Cup, he showed no trace of it yesterday after opening with an eight-under 64 for the lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
In his first start since featuring on the United States team that fell to a lopsided 171/2-101/2 loss to Europe, the Masters champion overcame gusting winds en route to an eight-birdie, bogey-free performance at the US$10 million (S$13.8 million) tournament.
Reed, whose competitive attitude is often seen as cocky and abrasive, had raised hackles by criticising US captain Jim Furyk's decisions and that he had been "blindsided" after being paired with Tiger Woods instead of Jordan Spieth.
But he let his game do the talking at Shanghai's par-72 Sheshan International Golf Course, rolling in lengthy putts for birdies on his second and third holes, and sticking an approach one foot from the pin for another birdie two holes later to ignite the scoring spree.
"It was pumping out there," the 28-year-old said of the swirling winds. "It felt really good.
"To shoot a round like that in these kinds of conditions, you know you're going to have confidence when the wind dies down."
Ryder Cup teammate Tony Finau and fellow American Xander Schauffle were two strokes back and tied for second on 66 while defending champion, Justin Rose of England, was in a pack on 69.
Reed, whose comments were chief among the recriminations in the US camp after their humbling defeat at Le Golf National in France, also alleged in an interview with the New York Times that Spieth, his playing partner at Hazeltine in the 2016 edition which the Americans won, refused to play with him.
But Furyk rejected that, saying that pairings were made known to the team weeks before, an assertion later backed by former world No. 1 Justin Thomas.
Reed declined to make further comments about the row after his round in Shanghai.
The World Golf Championships field features 19 of the world's top 30 golfers, but new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka could not quite get the momentum going.
The 28-year-old American has been hot this year. He won his second successive US Open, the PGA Championship and was voted the US Tour's Player of the Year. He continued in the same vein this season, with victory in the CJ Cup in South Korea last week lifting him to golf's summit for the first time.
But he was among the players who were unable to master the blistering conditions, notching just one birdie and a bogey for an 72.
Dustin Johnson, who Koepka replaced as the sport's top-ranked player, will also have to battle back after struggling with a 74.
The tournament carries a winner's prize of US$1.8 million.
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