KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Ryan Moore had 10 birdies in a nearly blemish-free round to card a 9-under 63 and take a two-shot lead after the opening round of the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic on Thursday.
The American, coming off a top 10 finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last weekend, surged into the lead with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and then capped off the round with another birdie on the 18th after sticking his approach shot within inches of the hole.
Keegan Bradley had seven birdies to finish two strokes back in second place at 7-under 65, and Sergio Garcia was another shot behind at 6 under.
The $7 million tournament at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club was included on the PGA Tour's new wraparound season this year, marking the first time the tour has offered FedExCup points at a tournament in Asia.
This has helped attract a top field, including British Open champion Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson and defending champion Nick Watney. Tiger Woods, who tied for fourth place here last year, is skipping the Malaysian event.
Moore, for one, is glad the tournament has been added to the PGA Tour schedule this year and that the new season is starting at this time of year, with two tournaments he loves to play. He's now had five consecutive rounds under 70, starting in Las Vegas last week.
"It was really just a huge bonus that (the season) starts now," he said. "These are events like Vegas, that's home for me, and then this event which I've really enjoyed the last couple of years. They're events I would play anyways so just the fact that they count, that's huge."
Mickelson, however, started the wraparound season on the wrong note.
Playing for the first time since the Presidents Cup, he had two errant drives off the tee – one into waist-high foliage, the other into the water – that led to double bogeys and an overall score of 1-under 71.
"I'm swinging awful. I'm swinging terribly at the ball," he said. "The lead for me right now is irrelevant. It's so far off that that's the last thing on my mind because I just don't know where the ball is going."
Mickelson said he was so frustrated, he didn't even think some extra practice would help.
"I would go hit balls, but I don't know what to do to try to fix it," he said.
It was also a tough day for Watney, who was paired with Mickelson in one of the last groups on the course. Watney started the day with two bogeys on his first three holes and never fully recovered, ending up in a share of 65th place at 3 over.
"Pretty much everything went wrong. I putted terribly, didn't drive the ball into the fairway enough," he said. "I'm disappointed, especially coming this far to play poorly."
Bradley could hardly have played better. In fact, he said it was one of his best rounds of 2013.
He attributes his good form to taking just a short break after the Presidents Cup and getting back to the course quickly.
"I wanted to be prepared for this tournament so I worked pretty hard the last couple weeks," he said. "I want to be a more consistent player out here. I want to win more. Most importantly, I want to contend at the majors and play better at the majors.
"I feel like there's no time to waste. I really want to get off to a fast start."
Garcia is looking for his first PGA Tour win since the Wyndham Championship in August 2012. He got some advice on the eve of the CIMB Classic from an unlikely source: Malaysia's Queen, Sultanah Haminah Hamidun.
Garcia played with the queen in the Pro-Am event in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
"I didn't know what to expect when it comes down to royalty but she was very, very relaxed. Very chill," he said.
And when he hit an offline shot, she gave him some encouragement that may have helped on Thursday. "She said, `Nah, tomorrow you'll hit it right. Don't worry, you'll be fine.'"