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Thursday, 26 August 2010
Richard Finch  (Getty Images)
Richard Finch (Getty Images)

England's Richard Finch set the first round pace in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles as the race for places in Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup Team began to unfold.

Finch’s six under par round of 65 was enough to give him a one stroke lead over four more Englishmen – Gary Boyd, David Lynn, Richard Bland and Robert Rock – as well as in-form Scot Stephen Gallacher.

“The scorecard doesn't really tell the whole story I suppose, but to go bogey free was quite remarkable probably,” said the former 3 Irish Open winner – he famously fell in the water at the final hole on that occasion.

“I took the slightly scenic route at times, and I'm delighted with the result. Six under par anywhere is a great score, and on the first day, so that was good.

“But it was just from the word go, I think I was one under par after five holes, and I one putted every hole to get to that point and thought I was going to be in for a long, difficult day, which I managed to just make the best of it and score well.

“I feel as though the last sort of few months I've been playing better than my scores have been showing, and today it seemed to make up for that.”

Finch is not in the hunt for an automatic Ryder Cup spot, but Simon Dyson - one of those in with a chance of taking one with a win this week - refused to let two late bogeys dampen his spirit on a day that saw injury end Ross McGowan's dream and Italian Francesco Molinari clinch his debut.

Dyson continued his 11th hour charge for a first cap - to make Europe's side the 32 year old from York not only has to win the final counting event, but also Miguel Angel Jiménez has to finish outside the top nine.

After a four under par 68 - he was six under before bogeying the two of his last three holes - Dyson goes into the second round in joint seventh place two behind fellow Yorkshireman Finch, while Jiménez's 70 has him outside the top 25.

Twelfth in the US PGA Championship a fortnight ago and fifth at the Czech Open on Sunday, Dyson said: "It's amazing what your attitude can be like when you know that you have to win.

"Too often players, including myself, walk into a tournament and think 'we'll give it a go, but there's always next week.'

"This week there isn't next week."

Captain Colin Montgomerie certainly knows what Dyson would bring to his side if he does pull it off this weekend.

"He's a passionate challenge - up for the challenge and a very bright and sparkly character," he said after his own 71, a vast improvement on 79-83 last time out at the final Major of the season.

"To have to come here and win and to start like that is a fantastic effort, so all credit to him."

Asked what it would mean to qualify, last October's Alfred Dunhill Links champion - that also came in Scotland - replied: "I would love it. I absolutely thrive on stuff like that.

"I've played Walker Cup (with Luke Donald and Paul Casey in 1999), a couple of Seve Trophies. I've played the Royal Trophy under Monty as well.

"I wouldn't say I haven't been enjoying my golf, but not as much as I normally do. And then all of a sudden you hit a bit of form and these last few weeks it's really kicked in again.

"I'm really having a lot of fun out there and that's half the battle really.

"A shame to finish like that, but it's a good start, so long may it continue."

Three more days will do him. Even if he does win and Jiménez is in the top nine Dyson would still make it if Swede Peter Hanson, whose victory in the Czech Open on Sunday prompted the Spaniard to enter this week's event, is worse than 43rd.

Hanson, though, began with a 69, while Jiménez's compatriot Alvaro Quiros, who like Dyson needs a victory, mixed five birdies with five bogeys for a 72.

McGowan, bothered by a trapped nerve for the past month and before that by knee and wrist problems, withdrew after a 77 that saw him play through the pain barrier, even squatting down after his tee shot - to 15 feet - at the short 17th.

He had required a top two finish to have any chance and commented: "Unfortunately I won't be able to make the team now, but I've got a few years left in me, so hopefully I'll make it in a couple of years' time.

"I'm pretty gutted. I had a great opportunity to make the team after having such a good finish to last year."

He won the Madrid Masters and then finished second to Lee Westwood in the Dubai World Championship.

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