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Shanghai Masters: Rory McIlroy leads way as Darren Clarke backs Chubby

By Bernie McGuire

Rory McIlroy took the bragging rights in his Shanghai showdown with former ISM stablemate Lee Westwood with a stunning 64 yesterday, while Darren Clarke shot down a suggestion on social network Twitter that he might be the next big-name player to leave the English management company.

The Open champion made his feelings plain when asked: “Hey Darren, would you leave Chubby if the offer was good enough, say 30 pieces of silver?”

“#Loyalty has no price,” replied Clarke, Chubby Chandler’s first client at ISM, adding for emphasis: “No!”

Immediately, in came another tweet from an individual in Co Meath: “Does that imply you disagree with Rory's decision?”

“It doesn't matter,” Clarke responded. “Rory is own man and I respect his decision.”

Westwood and McIlroy's other rivals at the $5m Shanghai Masters at Lake Malaren certainly had to respect the quality of golf played by the 22-year-old as he picked up eight birdies in a remarkable bogey-free round on a long and relatively difficult new course.

“If I can play as solid for the next three days as I did today, I feel as if I'll be very difficult to beat,” McIlroy said yesterday.

Paired with McIlroy in the first round just days after describing the Northern Irishman's decision to quit ISM as “bizarre,” Westwood had to be satisfied with a three-under 69.

American Hunter Mahan opened his bid for the record $2m first prize in Shanghai with a sweet 65. Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey were three off the pace in the 30-man field at this unofficial invitational event after posting first round 67s.

For his part, Mahan was delighted to be among the front runners in an event he believes is sure to grow into an important date on the calendar in years to come.

“They're building golf courses daily here,” said the American. “This is a place you want to market yourself.

“No question this is one of those events I think that is going to grow through time and get bigger and bigger and I'm excited to be in at the beginning part of it.”

Meanwhile, Australia's Robert Allenby produced a eight-under-par round of 63 to lead the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic by one shot.

The 40-year-old Victorian was round the par-71 course without incurring a single bogey to narrowly lead Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas after yesterday's opening round in Selangor, Malaysia.

Allenby was four under after just six holes in an excellent start and then made further birdies on the 11th and 15th, 16th and 17th in a strong finish.

Vegas, an impressive Tour performer this year, had a mixed start as he went birdie-bogey-birdie on the third, fourth and fifth holes but picked up shots on the eighth and 11th before ending on a high with a run of four birdies on his last four holes.

Swede Fredrik Jacobson was alone in third, two shots off the lead on six-under, ahead of American trio Cameron Tringale, Jimmy Walker and Bo Van Pelt.

Australian John Senden was joined on four-under in a share of seventh by Americans Scott Stallings, Stewart Cink, Jeff Overton and Mark Wilson.

Defending champion Ben Crane managed a two-under 69 while England's Brian Davis was level.

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