Shanghai, China – Keegan Bradley couldn't have possibly imagined his rookie season on the PGA Tour would go quite like this.
He won the first major championship in which he participated and is the only rookie on tour this year with multiple victories. As such, Bradley was invited to play in this week's WGC - HSBC Champions, and he promptly shot a seven- under 65 Thursday to take a two-shot lead after the first round.
There aren't enough adjectives to describe the type of year Bradley is having, but unexpected might be the one that leads the list.
After graduating from the Nationwide Tour a year ago winless, he went on to win the Byron Nelson Championship in a playoff and then defied the odds by overcoming a five-shot deficit with three holes to reach a playoff and eventually capture the PGA Championship in August.
With the big wins came increased fame and, also, expectations, which Bradley has met once again. He was flawless on Thursday with an eagle and five birdies, outclassing what is an impressive field at Sheshan International Golf Club.
The nephew of Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley, this Bradley was far better than world-class European Tour stars like Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer in the first round. As a World Golf Championships event, this tournament is sponsored by both the PGA Tour and European Tour and comprises many of the year's best players.
While Bradley's day was certainly sensational, he'll have some other big names with which to contend if he wants his third win of the year.
A trio of players share second at five-under 67, including last week's winner in Malaysia Bo Van Pelt. Fredrik Jacobson, who finished third, closed his round eagle-birdie-birdie to reach minus-five, while Alexander Noren also shot a 67.
Defending champion Francesco Molinari was poised to share second with the aforementioned three, but he finished double bogey-bogey to drop three shots and fall into a share of 18th at two-under 70.
MORE TO FOLLOW.