Scotland’s Craig Lee made a flying start to the Allianz Open de Lyon, carding a seven under par 64 in the first round to lead by one shot at Golf du Gouverneur.
The 34 year old from Stirling, currently 13th in the Challenge Tour Rankings, had five birdies and an eagle despite suffering from an upset stomach to set the pace ahead of South African Branden Grace and Englishman Daniel Brooks, who both signed for 65.
“I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday lunchtime so I’m feeling quite weak,” said Lee. “Today was very much a game of two halves. I started to feel better coming down the 18th - my ninth - then I had two good birdies at the first and second – both putts from about 11 feet – and managed to eagle the par five third. I hit a good drive then a six iron to about 20 feet and rolled in the putt.
“That gave me a bit of momentum and I had another birdie at the fifth, then it was nice to finish with two birdies at the eighth and ninth. On the eighth I pulled my drive left but hit a good shot with my rescue club and chipped on and holed the putt. Then on the ninth I hit a six iron approach to about three feet and rolled it in.”
This is Lee’s 22nd event of the season – more than any other Challenge Tour player – and he admitted the hectic schedule is starting to take its toll.
“My body’s feeling like it has played 22 events,” he said. “My neck is sore and my back is tight. If we still had half a dozen events left I’d pull out of next week, but we only have two after this week so I’ve just got to hope I can limp over the line. I need a good finish to try and make the top ten in the Rankings.
“There is a two-week break after next week’s event (the Roma Golf Open) so I’ll be able to recharge the batteries then.”
Grace also eagled the third and had birdies at the fourth, fifth, 11th and 18th. The 23 year old is currently 17th in the Rankings and needs to finish the season well to cement his place in the top 20 and gain promotion to The European Tour.
“It was nice to be four under through three holes, but I couldn’t get much going after that,” he said. “But any bogey-free round is always welcome.
“I’ve been playing nicely the last couple of weeks but haven’t made the cut, which has been frustrating. This week I’ve adopted a slightly different approach and mind-set and I’ve been working hard on my putting, so I’m pleased it seems to be working.”
Brooks said: “I’ve played well the last few weeks but haven’t holed many putts; today they started to drop so I’m very pleased with a 65. I’m 47th in the Rankings so I need a good week. We are running out of events now so this is a good start.
“I’m pretty disappointed with my season overall, so it would be nice to get something here. I had a second place in Sweden (in the Princess by Schüco) but apart from that not much has happened for me.”
Edberg was another player battling ill health, but he still managed to shoot a five under par 66 to lie alongside Pierre Relecom of Belgium, Florian Praegant of Austria, Finland’s Antti Ahokas and Frenchman Julien Quesne.
Edberg said: “I’m coughing, sniffing, shivering one minute and sweating the next, and I feel very weak. But apart from feeling awful I’m very happy. I don’t know how I managed to shoot five under. I played well. It’s a course where there are plenty of opportunities and fortunately I managed to take a few of them.”