Higgins, playing his first full year on the European Tour, came within one shot of the St Eurach course record with an eight-under-par 64 to take the outright lead. "Today was by far the most important round of my career," he said.
Westwood, who once described himself as "just a plodder", looked as if he might overtake Higgins when he played the first 15 holes, most of it in heavy rain, in seven under par. But he dropped a shot at the 7th, his 16th hole, and though he had a birdie at the 9th he had to be content with a 65 and joint second place with Phil Golding and France's Marc Farry, who had played in much better weather earlier in the day.
Another early starter, Bernhard Langer, who always starts among the favourites at German events, finished with a 69, three under par, while Seve Ballesteros shot a 71 and the American Ryder Cup man, Paul Azinger, fired a 74.
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