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Grace blasts 63 to lead WGC-HSBC Champions

HSBC-WGC ART (9.1.09)First Round — World Golf Championships — HSBC Champions — Sheshan International Golf Club — Shanghai, China — 

South Africa’s Branden Grace blasted Sheshan International Golf Club Thursday in the opening round of the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions in China.

Grace posted a bogey-free 9-under-63 to grab the first-round lead. He sits a shot ahead of Stephen Bowditch,Kevin Kisner and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Dustin Johnson — the 2013 HSBC champ — is T-4 alongside Patrick Reed and Danny Willett at 7-under and two back. Willett continues to be in the mix for the Race To Dubai. This is the second event in The Final Series — a four-tournament finale to decide the cup champion on the European Tour.

Rory McIlroy, who leads the Race to Dubai standings, managed a 4-under-68 after contending with food poisoning earlier in the week. McIlroy is part of a large group of high-profile players at T-17 through 18 holes including Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and defending champion Bubba Watson.

Grace rides Presidents Cup mojo to lead

Grace rides Presidents Cup mojo to lead

Spieth can finish T-14 or better this week and regain the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

While Rory opened as the betting favorite at 5 1/2-to-1 odds at Golfodds.com, Grace was listed at 30-1. The South African, who rides a wave of momentum after his play at the Presidents Cup, won twice earlier in the European Tour calendar.

Other Golf News:

  • The Champions Tour’s season-finale tees off Thursday at the Charles Schwab Champions TourCup Championship near Phoenix. Colin Montgomerie has a slim lead ahead of Jeff Maggert and two-time cup champion Bernhard Langer. No player has won three cups in the tour’s history.
  • The LPGA Tour hosts the TOTO Japan Classic this week featuring Stacy Lewis, who has yet to win in 2015.
  • Kyle Stanley and three others are tied early in round one at the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farm Championships. The tournament and PGA Tour signed a new deal to extend the event for another decade.
  • Phil Mickelson and coach Butch Harmon have split ties. Mickelson and Harmon worked together beginning in 2007 and won 12 PGA Tour titles including two LPGAtour logoNEWmajors.
  • Inbee Park (finger) has been cleared to return to action next week at the LPGA Tour’s stop in Mexico for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.