SHANGHAI, Nov 8 (Reuters) Sweden's Niclas Fasth shot a stunning first round 64 to equal the course record at the Champions today and American Kevin Stadler later matched him to share a three-shot lead at the million tournament.
A strong finish for a round of 67 put Vijay Singh alone in third while world number two Phil Mickelson, Argentina's US Open champion Angel Cabrera, British Open champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland and five others shared fourth after carding 68s.
An opening birdie and an eagle three secured with a 25-foot putt from the back fringe set the 35-year-old Fasth on his way to matching the eight-under-par rounds carded by Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson and Michael Campbell last year.
''I holed two good putts, it's not every day you're three under after two holes. And then I really just kept hitting great shots and playing well,'' world number 20 Fasth, who had another six birdies and dropped just one shot, told reporters.
Stadler picked up six birdies in an otherwise blemish-free front nine and grabbed three more after a bogey at the 11th -- a fine round for a player who only made sure of saving his US PGA Tour card last week.
''On the front nine everything was firing,'' said the 27-year-old son of 1982 US Masters champion Craig. ''It was great to play a worry-free tournament, I haven't had many of those in the last month or two.'' Fijian Singh grabbed four birdies over the last six holes to put himself into contention and said that despite playing most of his golf in the United States, he wanted to do his part for his continent.
''I am Asian,'' he said. ''We need a lot more events like this in Asia where you can have Asian players feeling more and more comfortable playing with a field like this. I'd like to pull it off and give the Asian world a little boost.'' Mickelson started with three birdies in the first four holes but stalled with a bogey at the fifth and picked up just one more shot to finish level with the two major winners as well as Britons Ross Fisher and Paul Casey, South Africans Richard Sterne and Andrew McLardy, and Korean KJ Choi.
''Hit some good shots, didn't quite make as many birdies, but played a good, solid round for a good start,'' the American said.
''There's a very low score out there. But, it's still difficult to do and I was very pleased with my round.'' Liang Wenchong finished on three-under to keep alive his hopes of becoming the first local winner of the Champions and South Korea's Yang Yong-eun started his title defence with a steady one-under 71.
Asia's richest tournament is co-sanctioned by the Asian, European, Australasian and Sunshine Tours as well as the China Golf Association.
Reuters TB RN1738