Thursday, 23 May 2002
Three players, England's Lee James, Federico Bisazza from Italy, and Sweden's Fredrik Widmark, share the lead on 67 after an eventful first day of the Izki Challenge de España in Urturi near Vitoria in northern Spain.

Early morning mist delayed the start of play for 50 minutes after which a stiff breeze proved a handicap but the day ended in brilliant sunshine with a host of low scores.

The leading trio are a shot clear of four more players, the French trio of Julien Van Hauwe, Bertrand Cornut and Dominique Nouailhac, and the young Belgian, Nicolas Colsaerts.

James spent last week in America practising and playing and it paid a swift dividend. "I had nowhere to play in Europe so I went to The Golf Club of Georgia, where I'm attached, and practised every day for a week," he said. "I also played nine rounds with members and it's helped me big time."

Having missed the cut in his two previous tournaments after winning the opening event of the year in Kenya in March, James was looking for a boost and he got it over the Seve Ballesteros-designed layout.

"This course is tricky if you miss the greens and finish in the thick rough," he added. "I only missed one green, which cost me my only bogey." Otherwise he carded an eagle and five birdies.

In contrast, Bisazza played an event on the Alps Tour last week and missed the cut. "It is important to play every week," he said. "It is boring to practise all the time but I went in to that tournament too relaxed. I am very happy to shoot 67 but it is only the first day."

He had seven birdies in his 67 but that was eclipsed by Widmark who ran in nine birdies late in the day. "I had some stupid bogeys but I also made some good putts for pars which evens things out I suppose," he said.

"I played nicely but it was my putting that was the key and I had 26 putts. I've never led on the Challenge Tour so I don't know how things will go from here."

Colsaerts, who lost out to Henrik Stenson in a three-way play-off for the Luxembourg Open two years ago when still an amateur, came home in 31 with five birdies in his 68, while Nouailhac had six birdies on his card.

Van Hauwe also had six birdies in his 68, while Cornut ran in an eagle and three birdies.

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