SHANGHAI — Rory McIlroy climbed out of bed 10 pounds lighter from a bout of food poisoning and made six birdies for 68. Jordan Spieth returned from his longest break without touching his golf clubs and also had six birdies in a round of 68. Both felt good about their start Thursday in the HSBC Champions.
It just wasn't enough to be anywhere near the lead.
Branden Grace, a month removed from a sterling performance in the Presidents Cup, made birdies on half his holes at soft, vulnerable Sheshan International for 9-under 63. It was the lowest opening round in the 11-year history of the World Golf Championships event.
And all that got him was a one-shot lead over Kevin Kisner, Steven Bowditch and Thorbjorn Olesen.
"(Thursday) was phenomenal out there," Grace said. "Barely had a breath of wind out there, and the golf course is playing probably as easy as it could be playing. There's some low scores out there. The guys are playing some great golf, and when you play on greens like this, it helps. You just have to get the ball on the right line and it goes in. It was fun."
The 78-player field produced 344 birdies and nine eagles, and it was a collective 189 under par.
Dustin Johnson, who won the HSBC Champions the last time he played it two years ago, had 65 along with Patrick Reed and Danny Willett
At least McIlroy is playing. He spent most of the previous two days in bed with food poisoning. His stomach was so sore and his body so stiff that he arrived earlier than usual to get loose on the range, and he wasn't sure what to expect when he teed it up at Sheshan for the first time in two years.
"Probably a little better than I was expecting out there, to be honest," McIlroy said. "I had not been out of bed for basically 48 hours, so I was really stiff. But whenever I got out there, I felt pretty good. Thankfully, it was a decent start, and now going to try to just get into the tournament."
Spieth wasn't sure what to expect, either. He didn't see his clubs for two weeks after returning home from the Presidents Cup in South Korea, the end of a season in which he won the Masters and U.S. Open, the FedEx Cup and was named PGA Tour player of the year.
"I hit some shots that looked like we were just continuing the end of the (2014-15) season," Spieth said. "And I hit some that looked like I took some time off. … All in all, I was very pleased. "
Champions: Bernhard Langer shot 7-under 63 for a two-stroke lead after the first round of the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz. He began the week third in the Charles Schwab Cup race, behind Colin Montgomerie (70) and Jeff Maggert (72). With players receiving a point for every $500 earned in the $2.5 million tournament, Langer was $33,000 behind Montgomerie and $13,500 behind Maggert.
Langer is trying to win the season title for the second straight year and a record third time overall. The champion received a $1 million annuity, the runnerup a $500,000 annuity, and the third-place finisher a $300,000 annuity.
Michael Allen and Billy Andrade were tied for second at 65.
PGA: Roberto Castro shot 10-under 62, his lowest score on the tour this season, to take a two-shot lead in the Sanderson Farms Championship at Jackson, Miss. Aaron Baddeley and Bryce Molder were tied for second at 64. Play was suspended due to darkness with nine players on the course, none close to the leaders.