Ranked 45th on the Official World Golf Ranking, Moore recovered from an opening bogey to lead from Major champion Keegan Bradley, who shot a flawless 65 at the challenging Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course.
Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia of Spain, who is making his debut at the US$7 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR, ended the day three shots off the pace in third position after a bogey-free 66.
Current Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand upstaged playing partner and world number three Phil Mickelson with a fine 67 to share fourth place with multiple PGA TOUR winner Rory Sabbatini, Boo Weekly, Chris Kirk and Chris Stroud. Korea’s K.J. Choi, an Asian Tour honorary member, was a further stroke behind after a 68.
Moore, who finished tied fifth at the inaugural 2010 CIMB Classic, enjoyed a birdie binged as he birdied all the par-three holes to charge into the lead at Asia’s first official FedExCup event.
His superb round was the lowest score recorded at the West course but will not count as an official record as the preferred lies ruling was in play.
“That might be the first time I’ve ever done that,” said Moore on birdieing all the par threes.
“I had four twos on my card. Especially these, I mean, because number 11 was playing about 230 or 235 yards, and I was hitting a five-wood in there, hit a great shot to about eight feet. I mean you don’t expect that all the time, but it was nice,” added the two-time PGA TOUR winner.
The 31-year-old Moore hopes the low round is a good omen for the coming days as his previous low round of 61 in Las Vegas last year earned him a second PGA TOUR title.
“The last time I had a good round like this to start, I won the tournament. You know, it’s always great to get off to a good start and get comfortable on a golf course, especially one that you haven’t played before, and to go hit it in the right places, put it in the fairway, putting it on the greens, and for me it was huge just to make some putts,” said Moore.
Bradley, winner of the 2011 PGA Championship, was delighted with his opening day’s effort, saying a break after a hectic finish to the 2013 U.S. season was much needed to boost and recharge his batteries.
“I had a really great day, super relaxed from the start, really one of my better rounds of the year. This course is very difficult. Rough is up and the greens are really firm,” said Bradley. “I put the clubs away for a few days but I got a lot of work to do this year, set a lot of goals that I want to accomplish. I want to contend in the Majors and play better in them.”
Garcia, an eight-time PGA TOUR winner, returned with a bogey-free round and was inspired to shoot a low round after playing in the pro-am with the Queen of Malaysia, Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah Hamidun on Wednesday.
“It was a great experience. She played quite nicely and we had a great time. When I hit a good shot, she said, ‘oh, tomorrow you’ll hit it over there. Don’t worry.’ So I guess she knew something that I didn’t know,” smiled the Spaniard.
Five-time Major champion Mickelson, who is the highest ranked player this week, struggled with his swing which resulted in a double bogey on the ninth hole when his tee shot landed in the water.
“I can’t remember swinging this bad in a long time. When I shoot a video of my swing I’m doing everything wrong. The path of the club is too inside, then it’s vertical, the head’s moving, my legs are loose. This is the worst I’ve hit and I can’t find the middle of the clubface,” said Mickelson.
Scores after round 1 of the 2013 CIMB Classic (a- denotes amateur):
63 – Ryan Moore (USA).
65 – Keegan Bradley (USA).
66 – Sergio Garcia (ESP).
67 – Rory Sabbatini (RSA), Boo Weekley (USA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Chris Kirk (USA), Chris Stroud (USA).
68 – Gary Woodland (USA), K.J. Choi (USA), Martin Laird (SCO).
69 – Charley Hoffman (USA), Nicholas Thompson (USA), Shiv Kapur (IND), Charles Howell III (USA).
70 – Stewart Cink (USA), Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Camilo Villegas (COL), Richard H. Lee (USA), Wade Ormsby (AUS).
71 – Jerry Kelly (USA), John Huh (USA), Lucas Glover (USA), Russell Henley (USA), Kevin Stadler (USA), D.A. Points (USA), Phil Mickelson (USA), Rickie Fowler (USA), Harris English (USA).