Shanghai, Nov 5 (IANS) Seasoned Indian golfer S.S.P. Chawrasia carded a three-under 69 to be tied 31st, while Anirban Lahiri scored a 70 to take joint 42nd spot after the opening round of the $8.5 million World Golf Championship (WGC)-HSBC Champions here on Thursday.

Despite being disadvantaged by the length of the course at the Sheshan International Golf Club, the three-time winner on the Asian Tour, Chawrasia made up for it with his precise short game where he made a total of 28 putts.

“Honestly this is a very long course for me and I just have to hit it straight and putt well. I did all of that today and I’m happy with how I’ve played. It’s a good start and hopefully I can continue the momentum,” said Chowrasia, who trails first round leader Branden Grace of South Africa by six shots.

The 37-year-old from Kolkata made birdies on the second, seventh, 11th and 17th holes alongwith a bogey on the third for a 69. Lahiri meanwhile remains confident of catching up with the leaders although he could only post a 70 at the Shanghai showpiece, which is also the richest tournament in Asia. The Asian Tour Order of Merit leader did not get off to the best of starts when he ran out with a 37 in his back-nine 10.

However, the seven-time winner on the Asian Tour, hauled himself back with a flawless homeward-nine that was marked with three birdies on holes second, fifth and seventh. “I have a chance of catching up with the guys ahead because there’s lots of birdies being made today. I just started out weak. I missed a whole lot of putts inside eight feet, so that cost me quite a bit. But I’m happy with the way I played on the back nine,” said Lahiri.

Meanwhile leader Grace enjoyed a one-shot advantage over American Kevin Kisner, Australia’s Steven Bowditch and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen with 15 players within four shots of the lead. Starting from the back-nine 10th, Grace turned in 31 after birdies on 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 18th. He continued to move up the leaderboard with further gains at the second, fifth and seventh to take the outright lead.

 

Two shots off the pace were the American duo of Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed. Australia’s Scott Hend, second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, carded a 68 to share 16th place with 14 other players that include Canada’s Richard T. Lee as well as tournament heavyweights Americans Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and World No.3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

Former World No.1 McIlroy, who was unable to practice before the tournament because of food poisoning, began his bid for a second WGC title of 2015 with a 68, which included a double bogey on the par-six 15th hole. “I’ve lost 10 pounds since being here. I can’t remember the last time I was this light. But hopefully I’ll have a couple of good meals over the next couple days and rehydrate and I’ll be feeling a lot better,” said McIlroy.

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