Greg Norman of Australia shot an opening 67, five under par, the to lie one shot off the lead held by England’s Simon Dyson after the first round of the BMW Asian Open at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.
The “Great White Shark”, an Honorary Member of The European Tour, picked up five birdies to lie joint second with Korean K J Choi, who finished third in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National last month, American Greg Hanrahan and Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng in the first European Tour event to be played in mainland China.
They lie one adrift of Dyson, winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2000, the year he won the Macau Open, Volvo China Open and the Omega Hong Kong Open.
“It’s nice to be leading by one from Greg Norman,” said Dyson, who birdied the last to break free of the pack. “I putted really well and never missed a thing. It just felt great.”
Norman, who at 49 years old is bidding to become the oldest winner on The European Tour, was in danger of dropping a shot on his final hole – the ninth - after pushing his tee shot and watching his ball bounce off the cart path and under a tree. He was forced to chip out sideways and approach the green from the 16th fairway but managed to save his par five to maintain his bogey free round.
“Before I left home I felt pretty good about my golf swing,” said Norman, making only his second appearance on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule. “Sometimes the travel is not great on my back but I’ve felt pretty good which makes me relaxed in my mind about being able to play.”
Affiliate Member Marcus Both of Australia, and Full European Tour Members Alex Cejka of Germany, Scotland’s David Drysdale, Swede Mattias Eliasson, Ireland’s Paul McGinley, and Australian Craig Spence are all a further shot back on four under par 66.
"It’s a good start," said Cejka. "I played okay but putted really well. When I missed the greens, I got up and down. The leaders are not far away but there are three rounds to go. The greens are rolling nice and the course was fair."
Defending champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland struggled to make an impression, shooting a level par 72 to lie joint 47th in his bid to win a second title of the season following his victory in Omega Hong Kong Open, the first event of The 2004 European Tour International Schedule.
"I was happy with how I played but just a couple of mistakes in the last few holes," said Harrington, who found water on the last. "There are some tough holes. Not much more to it. Maybe over confidence but besides that, I’m pretty happy with the way I played.
"The course is nice, the scores are there to be done. The scoring reflects nicely that the course is very playable. Tomorrow is another day. You get no wind in the morning and hopefully do a bit of a score. The wind was tough out there. It made the last couple of holes difficult. In the morning, usually the conditions are a bit better."