Solid start for Shane Lowry in Shanghai as Garcia leads
Spaniard leads the field by a shot after superb opening round of 64 at BMW Masters
Sergio Garcia tees off at ninth on his way to an opening round of 64 to lead the BMW Masters. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Starting at the 10th Lowry got off to a perfect start with a birdie three but was curtailed by back-to-back bogeys at the par three 12th and the par five 13th.
But the Offaly man was in resolute mode, working hard to make something of a round played in grey, soggy conditions.
Consecutive birdies on the 16th and 17th moved him back under par for the day before another birdie at the third, along with a run of pars saw him finish with a 70 and two under par.
Paul McGinley, the only other Irish player in the field due to Rory McIlroy’s absence, is a shot further back of Lowry after a 71.
But the opening day was all about Garcia.
The Spaniard, who is not playing the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week, has won 11 times on Tour but back-to-back sixth place finishes in the Open and European Masters are his best results of the campaign.
However, the 35-year-old was 11th in the WGC-HSBC Champions last week and continued that good form across the city at Lake Malaren with nine birdies and one bogey in an opening 64.
Also starting from the 10th, Garcia birdied four of his first five holes before dropping a shot on the 17th to reach the turn in 33, despite the course playing every inch of its 7,594 yards in the damp, overcast conditions.
Further birdies on the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh saw Garcia home in 31 to finish eight under par, one shot ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate Victor Dubuisson and BMW PGA Championship winner Byeong Hun An.
“I obviously played nicely,” Garcia said. “Conditions were quite good — not much wind, a little bit of a drizzle, but other than that it was good. I drove the ball very well and that gave me a lot of opportunities to hit some good iron shots.
“It’s the kind of round that you are looking for and hopefully I keep improving as the week goes on and we’ll be out there on Sunday having a chance.”
Dubuisson, who won the Turkish Airlines Open a fortnight ago but was ineligible for the HSBC Champions, carded a flawless 65 which was matched by playing partner An, with England’s Ross Fisher and Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard a shot behind.
With Rory McIlroy not competing, his rivals in the Race to Dubai had the chance to overtake the four-time major winner in the standings. Nearest rival Danny Willett just needs to finish 28th or better in the 78-man field, while Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose need to finish second or better and Branden Grace requires a win.
Rose, who bogeyed the 72nd hole 12 months ago to miss out on the three-man play-off by a single shot, birdied four of his last seven holes to shoot 67, with Oosthuizen two under and Grace one under.
Willett was two under par with five holes to play but bogeyed the fifth after finding sand off the tee and three-putted the eighth to card a level-par 72.