Grace leads WGC in China as McIlroy guts it out

Thu Nov 5, 2015 7:57am EST
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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - South African Branden Grace shot a sparkling nine-under 63 to take a one-shot lead in the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions on Thursday while Rory McIlroy overcame a bout of food poisoning to finish five strokes back.

World number three McIlroy had been bedridden for two days and missed out on practice rounds at the Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai. While he did not look back to full health he still carded a 68 to occupy a tie for 16th place.

It was a score matched by world number two Jordan Spieth, defending champion Bubba Watson and South African major winners Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen in an opening round delayed by 30 minutes because of heavy fog.

When the fog lifted it was Grace who saw the hole clearest, the 27-year-old rolling in a short birdie putt on his last, the ninth, to break out of a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.

Grace took advantage of the soft conditions following heavy rain on Wednesday evening to fire some pinpoint irons in his bogey-free round at the $8.5 million event, which Watson won with an 11-under total last year.

"The ball-striking was probably the best it's been in a long time so that was the main key today," Grace told reporters.

"There was barely a breath of wind out there and the golf course is playing probably as easy as it could be playing."

American Kevin Kisner, Australian Steven Bowditch and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen fired 64s to sit one back of the world number 22.


File photo of international team member Branden Grace of South Africa hitting out of a bunker on the sixteenth hole during the foursome matches of the 2015 Presidents Cup golf tournament in Incheon, South Korea, October 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji