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November 6, 2009

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Watney springs an early surprise

NICK Watney fired an 8 under-par 64 to race into a two-shot lead after the opening round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai yesterday, the American just missing out on the course record with a bogey at his final hole.

German Martin Kaymer, Ireland's Shane Lowry and American Ryan Moore share second after matching 66s, while world No. 1 Tiger Woods was a stroke further adrift in a tie for fifth after a solid 67.

While most eyes were on Woods and world No. 2 Phil Mickelson, it was their lesser known 28-year-old compatriot Watney who dominated the leaderboard for most of the day.

The Californian had already picked up two shots when he sank a 30-foot putt for an eagle three at his fifth hole and he blitzed five more birdies to stand well clear at 9-under with five holes to play.

He parred the next four holes, but a wild first putt on his final green left him too much to do to save par and prevented him from bettering a course record shared by Woods and seven others.

"I played very well... it was just one of those days when everything was feeling really good," Watney, who won the Buick Invitational for his second US PGA Tour title earlier this year, told reporters. "I'm in a really great position but at the same time, there's a really long way to go. It's always good to beat Tiger and hopefully I can keep a little cushion between us."

Woods, also starting at the 10th, made steady progress before picking up a couple of shots at his fifth and seventh holes, the latter set up by clipped approach shot that left him with a six-foot birdie putt.

The American blew his chance of picking up another shot when he found the rough with his drive at the signature 18th, his ninth, but rallied with three birdies in four holes from his 12th to move to 4-under.

Watched by a sometimes noisy gallery of well over a thousand spectators, Woods dropped his first shot of the day by screwing a six-foot par putt wide at his 15th but immediately got it back at the next and parred his way home.

"I got it round today," said Woods, who has finished second on his two previous visits to Shanghai.

"It wasn't my best ball-striking round for sure but made some putts which was nice, and just managed my game well."

American Anthony Kim, Briton Paul Casey and Chinese Taipei's Lin Wen-tang matched Woods' score but 2007 champion Mickelson mixed four birdies on his front nine with a single bogey on his way home to finish in a share of 13th after a 69.

"I'll need to come out tomorrow and shoot something in the mid 60s and get myself right back in it," the lefthander said.

Sergio Garcia had a day to forget with a 3-over 75 but there will be no cut so he has three full rounds to repair the damage.


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