SHANGHAI -- Jamie Donaldson of Wales shot a course-record 10-under par 62 Thursday on the opening day of the BMW Masters on the European Tour.
Donaldson was bogey-free and putted just 24 times in breaking the record of 63 set by Seung-yul Noh of South Korea last year.
The Welshman earned a four-stroke lead over a field that includes four of the world's top five players. The best of them was top-ranked Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, who posted a 67 and blamed the air pollution over China's financial capital for a headache he had in the latter stages of his round.
"I just played great from the word go and it was one of those days where everything went for me," Donaldson said. "The longest birdie putt I had all day was 20 feet at the 11th.
"I felt I was properly zoned in and they were ideal scoring conditions apart from a little rain early on. I also just seem to play well in China and the golf courses seem to suit my eye."
Ranked 51st, Donaldson has his sights set on ending an 11th full season on the European Tour inside the top 50. If he does, Donaldson will not only contest the two World Golf Championships in the United States next year but also qualify automatically for his first Masters. His only three U.S. tournaments were all this year.
"So it would be a great Christmas present to know that I will be playing in the Masters next year," he said. "It would be quite sensational, but I need to stay in the present and just keep crossing each bridge as it comes."
In July, Donaldson ended a title drought lasting 10 years and 255 tournaments in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
Immediately trailing him were Ryder Cup players Peter Hanson and Francesco Molinari, who shot 66s.
One behind them were McIlroy, fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey, plus Europe Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
McIlroy was level all day with playing partner and Race to Dubai rival Justin Rose, until their last hole when McIlroy followed a 144-yard 9-iron shot onto the green with a 3-foot birdie putt to hold a one-stroke edge on Rose.
"It was a great way to finish, but then I prepared well for this week having worked all last week with my coach Michael (Bannon) out in the States, and it was definitely a whole lot better than out in Turkey," he said, referring to the eight-man exhibition in which he failed to make the semifinals more than a week ago.
"That was more like a holiday," he added, "and today I very much had my tournament face back."
He hoped not to be bothered again by the headaches that affected him on the back nine.
"We're not breathing in the cleanest air," he said. "A good night's sleep tonight and I should be OK for tomorrow."
Olazabal was delighted to record his best first-day score in four years.
"While the driver was the weakest link, the rest of the game was pretty sharp," the Spaniard said. "I feel some freedom now the Ryder Cup is behind me and it's been a tough year and a half, a lot of things on my mind, decisions to make, meetings to attend. So I'm really glad that it's over. Now it's fun time."