England’s Robert Coles showed no signs of his troublesome neck injury as he shot a flawless eight under par 64 to lead after the first round of the AGF-Allianz Golf Open Grand Toulouse on the European Challenge Tour.
Coles withdrew before the start of the Qingdao Golf Open in China last month after suffering spasms in his neck but it appeared not to affect his game at the Golf de Toulouse in Seilh, France where he carded six birdies and an eagle on his second last hole to lead Scotland’s George Murray by one stroke.
Murray is also toiling with ailments of his own after pulling out of the Kazakhstan Open when a long term back injury flared up on the practice range but he holed a seven iron approach shot from 115yards for an eagle on his final hole of the day, to accompany six birdies and a bogey in his round of 65.
He is joined in a share of second place by compatriot Steven O’Hara and Frenchman Dominique Nouailhac but the day belonged to Coles who joked about the respective injuries he and Murray were carrying from their aborted Asian trips.
“We both had our long haul injury disasters – myself travelling to China and pulling out and George in Kazakhstan – the only thing is George is a lot younger than I am!,” said the 36 year old.
“I’m still having treatment on my neck but it didn’t seem to affect me out there. I started off scrappily but it was a good round. The last couple of weeks I have been playing well but just not finishing it off. Today I finished it off. There’s no miracle cure for that – just hard work.”
After finishing 14 and tied 11th in his last two tournaments, Coles is eager to build on his improved form and at 37th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings, is still harbouring ambitions of breaking into the top 20 and winning a card for The European Tour.
“I haven’t been consistent enough this year. I played well in St Omer and Kazakhstan - two big events – so I’ve been quite lucky but I need to win and that’s what I’m going out to do.”
Murray had spent most of the past fortnight in bed after withdrawing from the Kazakhstan Open but posted one of the best rounds of his fledgling professional career.
“It was great to see the shot go in on the last hole,” said Murray. “It pitched on the green and because of the conditions over here it spun back about 10 feet and went in. It was a good note to finish on.
“I was really happy with the way I played today. I’ve been struggling with my back since last Christmas and I’ve been on painkillers ever since. After I pulled out in Kazakhstan two weeks ago I’ve probably only hit 50 balls since. Even yesterday I was in bed with it but I just went out and played today, although I was holding back a bit.”
“I’ve only ever shot seven under par a couple of times as a professional or amateur and I just can’t seem to get to eight under. It’s like a mental block but it is a great start for me.”
England’s John E Morgan is one of three players a further shot behind on six under par, along with Paraguay’s Marcel Ruiz and Switzerland’s Raphaёl de Sousa.
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