American Nick Watney tied the course record with a virtually flawless eight-under-par 64 to open up a two-stroke lead at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai today.
With an unusually large first-day crowd watching world number one Tiger Woods card an opening round five-under-par 67, the spectators might have paid closer attention to Buick Invitational winner Watney as the two-time US PGA Tour winner claimed the clubhouse lead ahead of compatriot Ryan Moore and Race to Dubai contender Martin Kaymer.
Nick Dougherty made a welcome return to form following a slump after winning June's BMW International Open and was six-under with four holes to play of a bogey-free round.
Chinese Taipei's Lin Wen-tang, the reigning Hong Kong Open champion, joined Woods and his fellow Ryder Cup winner Anthony Kim in the clubhouse tied for fifth.
Watney, who started on the back nine, had looked on course to break the course record and had a outside chance of a magical 59 after reaching the turn in 31 courtesy of a 30-foot eagle putt.
He then reeled off an amazing run of four straight birdies at the start of his back nine, the highlight another mammoth 30-foot putt at the fourth.
The fireworks, though, stopped there for the 28-year-old, runner-up to Phil Mickelson at March's WGC-CA Championship, and he blotted his scorecard with a final-hole bogey following a costly three putt after failing to pick up further gains on his trip home.
"I played very well, I got off to a nice start. And the greens are so good that if you hit a putt on line, it's definitely going to go in," said world number 32 Watney.
"I was putting very well and I just tried to give myself as many chances as possible and I was able to make a few."