Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen struggled in the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday as Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara and India's Jyoti Randhawa fired rounds of 6-under par 64 to share a one-stroke lead.
New Zealand's Michael Campbell was hampered by a sore right ankle and considered dropping out, but hung on to shoot a 2-under 68 and finish just four strokes behind the leaders.
"I managed to limp around for the last four holes and get through," Campbell said of his ankle, which he said gave out during Wednesday's pro-am warm up.
Scottish Ryder Cup star Montgomerie is looking for a rare defense of his title at the $2 million (euro1.56 million) tournament, jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours. But he played a lackluster round, with only two birdies and a bogey that put him one-under par, five strokes off the lead.
Goosen, ranked No. 5 in the world, also got off to a slow start. The South African made three birdies, but dropped three bogeys to sit at even-par 70.
Liang Wenchong of China, England's Graeme Storm and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy shared second place, a stroke off the lead at 65. Randhawa moved into the joint lead by firing seven birdies, including five on the back nine. The Indian also took the first round lead last week at the HSBC Championship in Shanghai, where he hit seven birdies to move ahead of Tiger Woods. But he faded and finished ninth with four other golfers.
The 29-year-old Lara, who made six birdies, was pleased with his putting on the greens softened by rain the day before at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling
"The greens are tough to read and I read them today," said the Spaniard, whose last victory was at the 1998 Warsaw Open. "I drove the ball well. Looks like I am starting the year as I finished last year," said Lara, who finished tied for third in October at Mallorca Classic. "I hit the ball well and I am playing with confidence,"
France's Gregory Bourdy, England's Graeme Storm and China's Liang Wenchong were one stroke off the lead.
The Hong Kong Open is the second tournament of 2007 European Tour season.