Graeme McDowell shook off his jet lag and trails Frenchman Alexander Levy by just two shots after the opening round of the BMW Masters in Shanghai.
As Levy carded a flawless seven under par 65, McDowell posted a five under 67 to share fifth place in the first of the European Tour's Final Series events with Michael Hoey and Shane Lowry tied 19th after 70s and Paul McGinley 33rd in the 78-man field after a 71.
McDowell said: “I got here Tuesday morning and I haven't really been feeling my best the last couple of days. It’s my first long trip of the year and the body took a little bit of time to catch up.
"Thankfully a couple of nights’ sleep and I felt much, much better this morning, and the energy level has felt good again. I generally swung the club quite well.
"Coming off the back of the World Match Play a couple weeks ago, I felt my game was in good shape. I’m obviously looking for a big finish to the season, and that was a nice way to start.”
Levy, 24, won the China Open in April for his maiden European Tour victory – and on his return he again showed an affinity for the Far East at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai, where he leads by one shot from Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, Argentinian Emiliano Grillo and fellow Frenchman Romain Wattel.
McDowell is another shot back at five under, while his Ryder Cup team-mates Thomas Bjørn and Jamie Donaldson are at four under.
Levy, who won the rain-affected Portugal Masters three weeks ago, made light work of the wet conditions – which made the long course play even longer – starting his round with four consecutive birdies and finishing with another at the par four ninth.
Levy said: “The last three tournaments I’ve played very well and I’ve been very consistent. Today I missed just one fairway. I like to play this kind of golf and to be aggressive, and I need to be like this for the rest of the week.
"You need to hit it long and straight here and I did that today. The course is very long and on the par fours you’re going into the green with a five or six iron. I like courses like that, and with the greens being soft you can go for the flags.
“I think this country likes me! This course is very similar to Shenzen and obviously I really liked that one when I won earlier this year.”
BMW Masters - First round
65 A Levy (Fra) ,
66 R Wattel (Fra) , E Grillo (Arg) , N Colsaerts (Bel) ,
67 G McDowell (Nir) ,
68 B Grace (RSA) , J Donaldson (Wal) , M Siem (Ger) , O Wilson (Eng) , T Bjørn (Den) , R Sterne (RSA) ,
69 E Els (RSA) , H Mu (Chn) , M Madsen (Den) , R Karlsson (Swe) , L Hao-Tong (Chn) , F Molinari (Ita) , D Fichardt (RSA) ,
70 E Molinari (Ita) , R Ramsay (Sco) , M Ilonen (Fin) , K Seung-Hyuk (Kor) , S Dong (Chn) , M Warren (Sco) , F Aguilar (Chi) , M Hoey (Nir) , F Zanotti (Par) , V Dubuisson (Fra) , R Fisher (Eng) , R Palmer (USA) , S Lowry (Irl) , T Olesen (Den) ,
71 O Fisher (Eng) , P McGinley (Irl) , M Kieffer (Ger) , H Shao-Cai (Chn) , H Otto (RSA) , J Olazábal (Esp) , T Jaidee (Tha) , G Coetzee (RSA) , D Willett (Eng) ,
72 G Fdez-Castaño (Esp) , C Yi (Chn) , E Pepperell (Eng) , J Rose (Eng) , S Gallacher (Sco) , O Zheng (Chn) , L Wen-Chong (Chn) , T Aiken (RSA) , J Luiten (Ned) , B Wiesberger (Aut) , R Bland (Eng) ,
73 T Hatton (Eng) , H Ze-Yu (Chn) , M Baldwin (Eng) , D Horsey (Eng) , B Koepka (USA) , M Carlsson (Swe) , K Broberg (Swe) , C Kirk (USA) , K Stadler (USA) ,
74 I Poulter (Eng) , M Manassero (Ita) , R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) , D Howell (Eng) ,
75 L Yan-Wei (Chn) , M Foster (Eng) , S Dyson (Eng) , G Storm (Eng) , W Ashun (Chn) ,
76 A Sullivan (Eng) , W Tianyi (Chn) , P Larrazábal (Esp) ,
77 M Jiménez (Esp) , C Zi-Hao (Chn) ,
78 D Chen Xiao (Chn) , A Cañizares (Esp) , T Fleetwood (Eng)