SHANGHAI // Henrik Stenson carded a seven-under-par round of 65 to take an early lead in the first round of the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. The Swede blended his customary big-hitting with some precision putting gave him a one shot advantage over the rest of the star studded field. The Spaniard Sergio Garcia was left ruing a missed four foot eagle putt on the 18th that left him sharing second place with the man he wants to replace as world number two this week, the American Phil Mickelson, as well as Anthony Kim and the Australian Adam Scott.
The world number 12 Stenson started with a bogey but made amends immediately with an eagle three at the second, finding the green with a huge three-wood and holing out from six feet. That set off a birdie charge from the Swede and he picked up shots at the next three holes before adding three more over the remainder of his round despite limited visibility as fog descended on the Sheshan International course.
"I made my score on or around the greens today for sure, I'm very pleased with the scoring and keeping it together," said Stenson. "When we came up on 16, we could not see more than sort of the contours of the greens." The Zimbabwean Marc Cayeux and the Briton Owen Wilson were tied for fifth on five-under after a round of 67, while seven players shared seventh a further shot back. Garcia, who will overhaul Mickelson in the rankings if he wins, had a blemish-free day but it could have been even better.
"The putt on the 18th was pretty much just a bad putt," he said. "It was a very easy putt and I just didn't hit it well. "Unfortunately my putting stroke didn't feel as good as it has recently, maybe it's the jet lag." Mickelson, compatriot Kim and Cayeux also eagled the second and the defending champion was pleased with the start to his title defence. "I made a lot of good putts today," Mickelson said. "Last year I putted the greens very well. That was a big key to me winning and I putted them well today."
Robert Karlsson was presented with the Harry Vardon Trophy for winning the 2008 European Order of Merit before he teed off to start the 2009 season, the first year of the lucrative 'Race to Dubai'. The Swede finished four shots off the pace in a share of 15th with eight other players, including Ireland's three-times major winner Padraig Harrington, who also carded a 69. The Champions, which is aiming to become Asia's major, is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Sunshine Tour and the China Golf Association.