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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 02, 2018 1:00 am

Golf

European stars set tone in Mexico

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY – Two of the European Tour's hottest players brought their best golf to their first World Golf Championship.

Louis Oosthuizen, a world-class player for the better part of a decade, drilled a long iron into 4 feet for eagle on the par-5 15th and had birdies on two of the short par 4s at Chapultepec Golf Club for a 7-under 64 in the Mexico Championship on Thursday.

Right behind were two players unfamiliar to the world stage, though they sure didn't play like it.

Shubhankar Sharma, the 21-year-old from India and the only two-time winner on the European Tour this season, holed an eagle chip after making the turn and finished with a wedge into 2 feet for birdie and a 65.

“I was very nervous in the morning, but very happy with the way I put it all together,” Sharma said.

Chris Paisley of England, who followed his victory in the South African Open with a pair of top 5s against strong fields in the Middle East, had his name atop the leaderboard for most of the warm afternoon until he came up short of the 16th and made his lone bogey in a round of 65.

“After the win in SA, I didn't want to just be happy with winning. I wanted to kind of press on and that's what I did,” Paisley said. “I'm taking that attitude into the rounds, as well. If you get defensive or you back off at all against players like you've got this week, then you've got no chance of winning.”

Xander Schauffele also was at 65, while Rafael Cabrera Bello and Kiradech Aphibarnrat were at 66.

This World Golf Championship lived up to its name. The top six on the leaderboard came from South Africa, England, India, Spain and Thailand. The lone American, Schauffele, has a German father with French heritage and a mother who was born in Taiwan and raised in Japan.

Defending champDustin Johnson opened with a 69.

“I had some really good holes, I had some really bad holes,” Johnson said. “I felt like I was just struggling all day. But I did putt pretty well.”

Bubba Watson, coming off a victory at Riviera, also had a 69 and had reason to feel even worse. He was leading at 7 under until running off four bogeys in a six-hole stretch at the end of his round.

Justin Thomas didn't carry over his best form from last week's playoff victory at the Honda Classic. He opened with a 72, leaving him eight shots back.

Jordan Spieth opened with a 70.

LPGA: In Singapore, Jennifer Song shot an opening 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead at the Women's World Championship. The 28-year-old American reeled off seven birdies at the Sentosa Golf Club in a round that was interrupted for two hours by lightning.

Michelle Wie and Ji Eun-Hee (both 67) were tied for second while another nine players finished a further stroke back at 4 under. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70.

EUROPEAN: In Pretoria, South Africa, Louis de Jager's strong finish gave him a one-shot lead after the first round of the Tshwane Open.

De Jager birdied three of his last four holes for a 7-under 64 to move just ahead of Thomas Aiken, American Julian Suri and Felipe Aguilar.