By PGATOUR.COM staff
A pair of early starters -- England's Paul Casey and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat -- took similar but very different paths to identical 3-under 69s in Round 1 of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
Playing in the same group, both had a pair of over-par scores on their cards but while Casey was able to offset his two bogeys with five birdies, Aphibarnrat needed seven birdies to counter his pair of double bogeys.
" I'm happy with 69," Casey said. "3‑Under is not bad. It will be in touch with the leaders, by the end of the day, (though) I expect guys to go pretty low out there. Scoring is going to be good."
Overnight rains softened the course and birdies continued to fall late into the afternoon at Sheshan International, back as the host venue after a one-year hiatus. Aphibarnrat started quickly with four birdies on his first six holes, but doubles on Nos. 4 and 15 prevented him from making a run at the first-round lead.
"Good start today again," Aphibarnrat said. "Was making birdies, made a lot of putts. The big mistake on the fourth hole was I hit a poor seven, made double, and (I had a) bad lie on 15. But I'm still happy with the way I started."
PGA TOUR status is on the line for Aphibarnrat, who leads the Asian Tour money list. A win at this week's event, would bring him onto the TOUR instantly. A top-5 finish could net him enough non-member FedExCup points to earn Special Temporary membership, which would allow Aphibarnrat unlimeted sponsor's exemptions for the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season.
Casey and Aphibarnrat played Thursday with Peter Uihlein, who posted a 1-under 71 as the group took advantage of the Thursday conditions.
" We had a group of long hitters, so I think, yeah, you've got to take advantage of the long drives out here," Casey said "But it is a tight golf course. You have to drive it pretty accurately, as well. Plenty of water and plenty of trouble that you can get into if you're not careful. Certainly a long tee shot will give you a big advantage over everybody else."
Casey, Aphibarnrat and Uihlein will look to continue to drive it well and climb the leaderboard when they tee it up Friday at 10:20 a.m. local time (10:20 p.m. ET Thursday night).