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Stenson leads the way in Shanghai

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD: (GB & Ire unless stated)
-7 H Stenson (Swe) -6 P Mickelson (US), A Kim (US), S Garcia (Spa), A Scott (Aus) -5 M Cayeux (Zim), O Wilson -4 I Poulter, D McGrane, Pe Lawrie, T Levet (Fra), G Bourdy (Fra), P Marksaeng (Tha)
Selected others: -3 P Harrington, R Karlsson (Swe) -1 P Casey Par D Clarke

Henrik Stenson
Stenson battled damp conditions to finish strongly in Shanghai

Henrik Stenson shot a seven-under opening round 65 to lead an all-star field in the first event of the 2009 European Tour season in Shanghai.

The Swede overcame fog and rain to pick up six shots in five holes at the $5m (3.1m) HSBC Champions tournament.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia is looking to overhaul defending champion Phil Mickelson in the world rankings and both impressed with rounds of 66.

American Anthony Kim and Australian Adam Scott also shot scores of 66.

After dropping a shot at the first, Stenson reached the turn in five-under 31 before finishing strongly and was satisfied with his opening day's efforts.

"I'm very pleased with that," the 32-year-old world number 12 said.

"I haven't been playing great lately and I'm still struggling a little bit, especially with the longer clubs, but I hit a lot of three woods and kept the ball in play and really made some good stuff from there on.

"I made my scoring around the greens. I'm pleased with the scoring and for keeping it together."

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Mickelson, who recently said he was not yet ready to join the European Tour but could lose his number two ranking to Garcia if the Spaniard wins this week, dropped just two shots in his opening round.

"It was a good first round," the American said. "With the greens being soft, even though it was difficult to see, it was very good scoring conditions."

Garcia, who has risen to number three in the rankings after an impressive season, would have finished the day at the top of the leaderboard with Stenson had he knocked in an eagle putt on the 18th.

"I guess it was a good solid round," the 28-year-old said. "Unfortunately my putting stroke didn't feel as good as it's been feeling lately."

This season's European Tour requires members to play 12 events, up from 11, and the increased prize-money on offer in the inaugural 'Race to Dubai' has attracted many leading players from around the world to join up.

The season will end with the new $10m Dubai World Championship in November next year.

Mickelson's Ryder Cup team-mate Kim, ranked eighth in the world, Australian stars Adam Scott, world number 16, and Robert Allenby, as well as South African Trevor Immelman, have also returned to the European fold.

Kim carded an eagle at the second before a mixed back nine of 34 left him just one shot off the pace, while Scott recovered from a poor opening few holes to shoot an impressive five-under back nine.

Among the other big names, Irish three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington and Sweden's newly crowned European Order of Merit champion Robert Karlsson were among a group of 10 players on three under.



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