Bradley Starts out Hot in Shanghai

Keegan Bradley fired a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead after 18 holes of the HSBC Champions. The $7 million, World Golf Championship event started Thursday at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai with a field of 78 international players.

Starting on the 10th hole, Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, birdied his first (No. 10) and fifth holes before making eagle on the par-5 18th (his ninth). The nephew of LPGA Tour Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley then reeled off three more birdies on his inward half.

The 25-year-old from Vermont leads Sweden's Alex Noren and Fredrik Jacobson and American Bo Van Pelt by two strokes, and K.J. Choi and David Toms by three.

Bradley was in the same group as world No. 2 Lee Westwood and Adam Scott, who each shot 69. "Every week, I'm amazed at who I'm around," said Bradley. "And to be in a group like that in this tournament, and to play like that on this course is very rewarding and it means a lot to me."

Defending champion Francesco Molinari, also starting on No. 10, shot 70. The Italian began well with four birdies and a bogey on his front nine. He then carded three more birdies - after dropping a shot on his 10th, but stumbled home with a double-bogey, bogey finish.

Van Pelt has been downright toasty of late, notching his second PGA Tour victory last week in the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic by six shots. Also starting on No. 10, the 36-year-old from Indiana had seven birdies and two bogeys Thursday. Van Pelt is now 28-under par in his previous five rounds.

The HSBC Champions counts toward the PGA Tour's Player of the Year voting, which will take place next week. Bradley is one of seven players with two victories this season and a win in China would attract serious consideration. The Nationwide Tour grad and Tour rookie is playing this week with fellow two-time winners - Nick Watney and Mark Wilson, while the others - world No. 1 Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson - are not entered. Both Watney and Wilson had 71s in the first round.

Donald, the PGA Tour's top money earner this year and still ranked No. 1 in the world, stayed home to be with his wife, who is expecting their second child.

Bradley is not focused on the award, however, at least not at this point. "You know, all I'm trying to do is win this golf tournament," he said. "I know there's a lot on the line, and there's some awards to be won. I'm sure Luke is not very interested in this tournament. I'm sure he's sleeping. But I hope to keep playing well and (let) those fall where they fall."

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy got off to a decent start with a 2-under 70. McIlroy, who won last week's Shanghai Masters to earn $2 million - golf's richest prize, was pleased with his play.

"It's a huge event anyway, but for me, it's a big event in the course of the season just because I feel like if I can play well this week, I can eat into Luke's lead a little bit," McIlroy said of Donald, who has a $1.8 million lead over him in the Race to Dubai, the European Tour's season earnings title. Donald is seeking to become the first player to win the money titles on both the PGA and European tours.

A couple of uncharacteristically high rounds were posted Thursday at Sheshan International. Italian teenager Matteo Manassero had a disastrous day, making only five pars, one birdie, nine bogeys and a double-bogey en route to an 82. England's Tom Lewis, a former heralded amateur who won the European Tour's Portugal Masters last month in his only third event as a pro, had a 78 that was matched by 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year, Jim Furyk.

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