It's a bit of a different experience this time around for Russell Knox at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Last year he was the last man into the elite field, scrambling with visa issues just to make it for his opening-round tee time in China. He left Sheshan International with his first PGA Tour win, a breakthrough that catapaulted Knox to a career season that also included a win at the Travelers Championship.
His return this time meant he was celebrated as the defending champ early in the week, and after a 6-under 66 he clearly has plans to retain the trophy.
"I didn't put any pressure on myself. I didn't feel overly tight out there, so I was proud of myself to kind of relax and enjoy it," Knox told reporters. "Can only be your first title defense once, and so make sure I'm going to have a good time the next three days."
Knox began on the back nine and sparked his round with four straight birdies on Nos. 14-17 before adding birdies on Nos. 3 and 7 on his inward half.
He sits in a tie for third, one shot behind playing partner Rickie Fowler and two shots behind Rikard Karlberg. While inclement weather conditions were difficult for some to handle, the Scot felt right at home during the opening round.
"Conditions were just like this on Sunday last year. It was a little cooler last year on Sunday but very dark and dreich, as the Scots would say; a little mist and rain," Knox said. "But the course played awfully long, which is fine for me. If it's lift, clean and place, as long as I'm in the fairway, I can compete around here."