Danny Willett has plenty of work to do to get his challenge for top spot in the Race to Dubai back on track after a difficult opening day at the BMW Masters.
The Sheffield golfer fired a level par round of 72 at Lake Malaren in Shanghai for a tie of 48th, eight shots off overnight leader Sergio Garcia.
Willett needs a finish of 28th or better in China to move top of the European Order of Merit ahead of Rory McIlroy, who is not playing this week’s event.
And the pressure appeared to tell on the 28-year-old at times, though he did show some excellent composure in order to prevent a disastrous round.
Starting his round on the tenth, Willett was -2 under heading into his back nine but dropped three shots on his way in. It could have been worse had he not saved par from the bunker on the last.
This was only the fifth time this season he has failed to break par in an opening round.
Fellow Sheffield golfer Matt Fitzpatrick continued his excellent recent form to shoot a flawless four under par round of 68.
The 21-year-old did not drop a shot and birdied three of his last nine holes to take claim a nine way tie for ninth.
Three players are able to pass both Willett and McIlroy in the Order of Merit with victory or second at Lake Malaren.
Justin Rose is leading that trio so far, sitting tied for sixth with Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen tied for 24th. Branden Grace, who needs to win to move top of the rankings, is tied for 38th.
Willett is out at 1.40am on Friday while Fitzpatrick tees off at 1.10am.