Westy leads in the clubhouse

Newly crowned World No 1 Lee Westwood has captaured the early lead in the clubhouse at the WGC HSBC Champions.

Lee Westwood, the newly crowned World No 1, has captured the early lead in the clubhouse at the WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

The 37-year-old Worksop star, who earlier this week was clearly riled by Nick Faldo’s jibe that he would need to win a major to cement his place as the planet’s number one golfer, posted an excellent 6-under 66 as he opened his bid to retain his newly won crown and led a group of three on 5-under.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Japan’s Yuta Ikeda were a shot back after each posted a 67 and were tied with Korean teen Noh Seung-yul who was playing the final hole at the Sheshan International Golf Club.

The man sitting on top of the leaderboard at this stage, was super hot Francisco Molinari, who was at 7-under after just 16 holes, the Italian star having so far posted three birdies on his front nine and four in a row coming home with not a bogey in sight.

The 37-year-old Westwood, who deposed Tiger Woods on Monday as the World No 1, quickly demonstrated that he was not about to allow his new status to hang heavy on his shoulders when he teed off from the 10th as most of the big guns in the field did on Thursday.

He had soon carded birdies at the 13th, 15th and 16th holes and almost moved to four under par at the par-five 18th but an eight-footer lipped out to leave him two behind early leader Ikeda on three under par at the turn.

After two more birdies at the 1st and 6th, his momentum was slowed briefly with a bogey at the par-four 7th, but he recovered superbly with further birdies at the 8th and 9th to finish what he will surely consider a most satisfactory start to a crucial event.

His was an especially important start as Tiger Woods , who has vowed to regain his Number 1 spot, was just two shots back with a 4-under 68 and also a strong contender as the elite field of world wide champions heads into Friday’s second round.