Watney has smooth ride to opening 64

SHANGHAI --- So much for that notion that American golfers don't travel well.


The first World Golf Championship in Asia opened Thursday to a leaderboard filled with Stars & Stripes, led by wide-eyed Nick Watney and his 8-under-par 64 that tied the course record at the HSBC Champions.

Watney got more excitement than he expected when he went to Shanghai's metropolis in a cab that weaved through six lanes of cars on a three-lane highway. He felt far more safe at Sheshan International Golf Club, where he kept it down the middle and close to the flag. Watney made an accidental eagle and ran off four consecutive birdies while building a two-shot lead.

"It was just one of those days where everything was feeling really good, so I wasn't too jumpy," Watney said.

Ryan Moore wasn't about to pass up a trip to China when he qualified by winning his first PGA Tour event in August. With a new equipment deal in place, he shot 66 to join Shane Lowry of Ireland and Martin Kaymer of Germany, who is second in the Race to Dubai and facing a big week at this $7 million event.

Tiger Woods was the star attraction again, although it is demanding as ever.

Standing composed over his opening tee shot, he flinched all the way through his swing and let the 3-wood drop at impact upon hearing the shutter of so many cameras, inside and outside the ropes.

"The guy in the grandstand basically did almost a photo sequence," Woods said.

The shot was so short, buried in deep rough right of the fairway, that caddie Steve Williams had to walk 40 yards to find the yardage on a sprinkler.

It was a frenzy for the opening hour, with marshals barking at the gallery not to take pictures, and Thongchai Jaidee's caddie having to walk up to a grassy hill and escort one photographer to the side of the ropes so his player could hit the shot.

Ultra sensitive when it comes to cameras, Woods handled this day better than most and chalked it up to a maturing golf crowd in China. More frustrating was not knowing where his ball was going throughout a gorgeous afternoon. Still, Woods took care of the par 5s and made enough putts to get around in 67.

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

Woods was joined at 67 by Anthony Kim, Paul Casey and Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan, giving some local flavor to Asia's biggest tournament.

Former Louisville, Ga., resident Brian Gay had 69, and ex-Augusta State golfer Oliver Wilson shot 71.

Casey had reason to be thrilled with his start, no matter how many shots he feels as though he squandered. It was the first time he kept score over 18 holes since Sunday at Turnberry in the British Open. He had missed three months with a rib injury, returning last week in the World Match Play Championship.

Matt Kuchar, the former Georgia Tech star, and Pat Perez were among those at 68.



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