Guthrie sets scorching pace as McIlroy and McDowell trail in Shanghai
AMERICAN Luke Guthrie made light of a 7,000-mile journey to set a daunting clubhouse target in the first round of the BMW Masters in Shanghai today.
Guthrie finished fifth in the Shriners Hospitals for Childrens Open in Las Vegas on Sunday after a closing 64 and carried on where he left off at Lake Malaren in Shanghai.
The 23-year-old, who turned professional only last year, carded birdies at the second, third and seventh to reach the turn in 33, before also picking up shots on the 13th and 14th and chipping in for an eagle on the par-five 15th.
After saving par on the final three holes, Guthrie signed for a flawless seven-under-par 65 to lead by three shots from former Open champion John Daly, who also tamed the windy conditions to card a 68 that did not feature a single bogey.
"It was a great day," Guthrie said. "It was one of the better rounds I've ever played. I was really looking forward to this tournament on my schedule and I just can't be more happy to be here."
Rory McIlroy recorded a one-under par 71 while Graeme McDowell finished two under.
McDowell had leapt up the leaderboard in spectacular fashion, coming up just short of the par-five 13th in two with the pin 30 yards on the green, only to hole the putt for an unlikely eagle.
The former US Open champion bogeyed the next after twice finding sand, but bounced straight back with another birdie on the 15th to join McIlroy on two under.
McIlroy, who has not won a tournament in 2013 after five victories in 2012 but was second in Korea last week, three-putted the fourth after a birdie on the second but then picked up shots on the seventh and ninth.
But McIlroy dropped a shot in the home stretch to finish on one-under. Padraig Harrington finished with a level-par 72.
With the course playing every inch of its 7,600 yards, McIlroy's birdie on the 470-yard ninth was the only one managed by the entire field, which had been reduced to 77 players by the withdrawal of Holland's Joost Luiten - twice a winner on the European Tour this season - due to a shoulder injury.
American players are still dominating the leaderboard however with Peter Uihlein carding a three-under 69 to make it a US one-two-three.
This week's event is the first of four tournaments which make up the inaugural Final Series on the European Tour, with Sweden's Henrik Stenson holding a lead of €425,573 over McDowell at the top of the Race to Dubai.
But with a first prize of €850,000 on offer here and a total prize fund of almost £20million in the four events, the battle to become European number one in Dubai in mid-November is far from over.
Stenson, whose victory in the Tour Championship in Atlanta last month secured a £6.2million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup, was level par after 11 holes.