Luke Guthrie (Getty Images)
American Luke Guthrie made light of a 7,000-mile journey to claim a three shot lead after the first round of the BMW Masters presented by SRE Group as the Final Series began in Shanghai.
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.
The 23 year old, who only turned professional last year and is playing his first regular European Tour event, 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," said Guthrie, whose round was all the more impressive given only 13 players ended the day under par. "It was one of the better rounds I've ever played.
“I had 19 putts, and that was definitely the key to my round.
“I had about five weeks off before I played the last two weeks over on the PGA Tour, and I've been playing solid, hitting it a lot better and just been getting a lot out of my rounds again, which is nice.
“I love Shanghai. This is my first time over in China and Asia, and I just wanted to challenge myself to come travel abroad and get used to this, and just keep gaining experiences and get better at becoming a global player.
“I was really looking forward to this tournament on my schedule and I just can't be more happy to be here."
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 Graeme 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 over US $30,000,000 in the four events, the battle to become European Number One in Dubai next month is far from over.
Daly has been on the sidelines for four months following elbow surgery, and the 47 year old was delighted with his return.
He said: “When you don't play competitive for a while, especially against all these guys out here, as good as they are; you want to execute and hit solid shots.
“Luckily I got a lot of shots that came out right today.
“My elbow has been ailing me for probably six years, and the last four have been really just brutal and finally to get the surgery done, it's nice to be able to pinch chips, which I haven't been able to do in a long time, so that's encouraging.”
European Tour rookie Peter Uihlein completed an all-American top three, the 24 year old continuing a glorious season that has already seen him win in Madeira and finish runner-up to David Howell at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“That was tough today, that was really hard,” said Uihlein, who currently stands tenth on The race to Dubai and is looking to cement a share of the $3,750,000 Race to Dubai Bonus Pool. “That was some round by Luke - I don't know what course he played, but that was really difficult today.
“I got off to a bad start and I was able to grind it out and finish well, so it was nice.”
In the battle for European Number One, Race to Dubai leader Stenson carded a level par 72, while his nearest challenger McDowell shot a two under par 70 aided by an eagle from around 100 feet on the par five 13th.