SHANGHAI—It is a week of golf firsts happening in the bustling city of Shanghai, China. This week, Lake Malaren, the first Jack Nicklaus Legacy Course to open in Asia, is being unveiled, and it is being christened with the inaugural Shanghai Masters. The field includes a trio of first-time major championship winners.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, US Open champion Rory McIlroy and PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley—all first-time major championship winners in 2011—headline a powerful 30-man field that began play today at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters. The 558-acre course is the first Nicklaus Legacy Course, which represents a collaboration by the father-son team of Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II. Englishman and world No. 2 Lee Westwood, along with three-time major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland and South Africa’s two-time major champion Retief Goosen, also made the trip to China to play on the Nicklaus-designed course, and vie for the $2 million winner’s check at the inaugural tournament.
“The Masters course at Lake Malaren has a fantastic variety of features that gives the course a lot of interest and many challenges, while being both very fun and exciting play,” said Design Associate Chris Rule, who worked on site at Lake Malaren to bring the Nicklauses’ vision to life. “The elevation changes throughout the golf course create very beautiful and dramatic golf holes. The course is challenging and has the appearance of being difficult, but it is very fair and golfers will quickly realize that if they play the correct shot, they will be rewarded and have the opportunity to score well.”
American Hunter Mahan was a shot back of McIlroy after the first day. He had seven birdies, including three in a row on the back nine, and then settled for a par on the 18th hole when his birdie try lipped out.
Also playing for a piece of the $5 million purse is England’s Ian Poulter, Scottish veteran Colin Montgomerie and China’s Zhang Lian-wei. Poulter, Harrington and England’s Paul Casey were three shots back Thursday at 67.
“This week we have everything, a great field of players, a great course and organization, and a great city. It is a perfect setting, a world class course for a world class field,” said Zhang, who played Thursday with McIlroy and Westwood.
“We have ten Chinese players and three Korean players in the tournament flying the flag for Asia. These events give rare opportunities to Chinese and Asian players to go up against the game’s best players,” said a tournament spokesman.
“This gives them better exposure and development chances and also attracts golfing fans.”
Player comments regarding Lake Malaren
“I played nine holes today and was very impressed with the course and the layout. The greens are great but firm and if the wind blows like today, it will make scoring difficult”
“It’s the first time I have come to China, the golf course looks great, I’m excited to be here and hope to come many more times in the future”
“The greens are holding pretty well. The fairways are generous. The course is set up well enough so that its not too long, good length holes. But it’s still challenging in a lot of areas so you have to be cautious on a few shots. But it’s a real fun layout”
Echoed the views of many players competing today when he complimented the “Five week course”, a reference to the way the organizers mobilized to get the course set up for the tournament. In a post round interview he said “It is amazing what they have done here, the fairways are really good and when you read a putt on the greens you can go for it, all the players are talking about how good it is here”
Zhang Liang Wei
“The event has everything, we have a great prize money, nice people to support this tournament a world class course for world class players”