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Damien McGrane leads by a shot

Damien McGrane rode a hot putter to claim a one-stroke lead after the first round of the $2.8 million Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea on Thursday.

A six-under-par 66 at the Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul could have been even better had it not been for a pair of bogeys but McGrane was not complaining.

“I holed everything inside 15 feet,” he told reporters after stealing the thunder from world number one Lee Westwood and a host of other big-name players on the first day of the co-sanctioned event.

“I made plenty of birdies and I putted nicely. I also made two bogeys which came out of nowhere but that’s golf.

“I still think there are a lot of birdie chances out there and scoring will be quite low this week,” added McGrane, whose sole European Tour win came at the 2008 China Open.

Britain’s Westwood, newly returned to the top of the world rankings, blotted his scorecard with a double-bogey on his last hole to finish with a 72.

“I’m still in contention,” said the Englishman. “On the first 15 holes I played very nicely and gave myself a lot of chances without really making any putts.”

Hot on McGrane’s heels after rounds of 67 were Briton Richard Finch and South Korea’s Park Sang-hyun, the former not dropping a shot all day.

“It’s a tough golf course and I somehow managed to keep bogeys off the card, which was nice,” said Finch. “This course has a lot of elevation changes and slopes.

“Even the greens have some huge slopes and ridges in them. I just tried to make it a real key to get it on the fairway and try to get on the correct level with my approach shot.”

Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez carded a 70, along with big-hitting American Dustin Johnson, while European Ryder Cup team mate Ian Poulter of Britain had a 74.

Three-times major winner Ernie Els returned a 73 in the first round of the tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Korean Tours.

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