Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Getty Images)
A rejuvenated Michael Lorenzo-Vera used his favourite rugby team as inspiration as he powered his way into a share of the lead in the opening session of the Roma Golf Open 2010 presented by REZZA.
In recent weeks, Lorenzo-Vera’s beloved Biarritz have fought their way to narrow victories in both the Heineken Cup and their domestic league without being at their brilliant best, just as the man himself battled his way to a five under par round of 66 thanks largely to a putter which was as warm as the weather at Olgiata GC, on the outskirts of the Italian capital Rome.
The flamboyant Frenchman had been earmarked as a potential star of the future when he won the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2007, beating England’s Ross McGowan into second place; but since then he has struggled to live up to his billing, with some sparkling spells negated by infuriating periods of inconsistency.
By his own admission Lorenzo-Vera, a naturally vivacious and sometimes volatile character, has struggled to curb his frustrations in a season which has failed to ignite, but he was all smiles after joining England’s Stuart Davis, Argentina’s Pablo Del Grosso and Scotland’s George Murray at the top of the leaderboard.
Lorenzo-Vera is currently 133th in the Challenge Tour Rankings, but the 25 year old from the Basque region in the south west of France is still confident of qualifying for the 45-man Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, a tournament he won three years ago.
He said: “I hadn’t played the back nine before today, and I played it in five under, so that was a good start! On the way round today I was thinking about my rugby team, as they haven’t been playing their best lately but they’re still winning. They’re doing what they have to do to get the right results, and I tried to follow their example today. It seems to be working so far!
“I like the course and I’m feeling good, so I’m confident of having a good week here. Some of the holes are very tight so you have to be straight off the tee, but once you get through them there are some birdie chances if you play well enough. The greens are probably the best we’ve played on all year, which definitely helped me with my putting.
“I putted really well today. I holed an eight metre putt on the 12th hole then one from 10 metres on the 13th, so I was feeling pretty good after that. I really enjoyed my round today, which hasn’t always been the case this season. It’s been very tough at times, especially for my playing partners when my clubs have gone flying in their direction! I really hate playing badly, but I’m learning to accept the ups as well as the downs. Hopefully I can finish the season strongly and avoid having to go to the Second Stage of Qualifying School. That’s my goal over the next couple of weeks.”
Davis, currently 36th in the Rankings, is already virtually assured a place in the season finale at San Domenico Golf, but would dearly love to avoid the angst of a visit to the Qualifying School Final – having suffered more than his fair share of heartache there in the past – by climbing into the top 20 of the Rankings with a first victory.
Unlike Lorenzo-Vera his putter was stone cold, with Davis lamenting a series of squandered opportunities to post an even lower score.
Davis was offered a sponsor’s invitation to compete in the €150,000 event, which has a reduced field of 114 players, and he fully justified the decision with his lowest opening round of the season.
The Englishman, whose only blemish was a three-putt bogey at the fifth hole, notched four birdies and the only eagle of the morning on the 518-yard 17th hole, where he hit his five wood to six inches.
He said: “I felt like I actually putted quite well, but I missed a hat load of putts – hardly anything seemed to drop. So I started to lose a bit of confidence on the greens, and my birdie putt on the last was pretty dismal, to be honest. It’s a shame, because I had a really low round in me today. It’s probably as well as I’ve struck the ball all season – I hit draws and cuts when I needed to.
“It seems silly to say I’m disappointed with a 66, but I could easily have gone three or four shots lower. I’m very pleased with how I played, but just a little frustrated I didn’t get more out of my round. I missed five or six putts from inside ten feet, and I can’t blame the greens because they’re some of the purest we’ve played on all season. So I’ll spend a few hours on the practice green this afternoon – I certainly won’t be hitting any shots on the range, because there’s not too much I can really work on.”
Meanwhile, Murray played with the sort of freedom afforded by his position in the top ten of the Rankings.
The Scot enjoyed a better day than his compatriot Chris Doak, who disqualified himself after absent-mindedly using a distance measuring device which is not permitted on the Challenge Tour – but is allowed on the Tartan Tour, the domestic Tour in his homeland on which Doak sometimes competes.
Murray’s round burst into life between holes 13 and 15, which he covered in four under par with a run of birdie-eagle-birdie.
He said: “I played very nicely, and even my only bogey of the day on the 17th was quite unlucky, because I got stuck behind a tree by the side of the green, so I could only reach the front edge and then ended up three-putting. But I hit straight back with another birdie on the 18th, and managed to hole a couple of nice putts on my back nine too. So all in all it was a good day.
“I didn’t play well in Russia but got things back on track in Toulouse last week, although I didn’t putt very well. But today it all seemed to come together quite nicely, so hopefully I can keep it going and finish the season strongly. The goal is to try to stay in the top ten to give myself the best possible chance for next year. I’m trying not to think about the Rankings too much, although it’s quite difficult not to with people reminding you all the time!”
Del Grosso is in need of a good week, as the Argentine currently sits in 46th place in the Rankings and therefore right on the fringe of qualification for the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
The diminutive 29 year old, who was born in Argentina but now lives in Madrid, dropped his only shot of the day with a three-putt at the 12th hole, but rallied with four birdies in his last six holes to make it a four-way tie at the top – albeit with the afternoon starters yet to complete their rounds.
He said: “I drove the ball very well today, which is so important on this course because the fairways are very tight in places. I recently changed the shafts in my irons, and they seem to be working well so far. I kept pulling the ball left with the old shafts, which is unusual because I’ve always hit the ball right in my career. But today was much better, and I hope tomorrow is the same because I need a good week to climb into the top 45 in the Rankings.”