SSI Err
Thursday, 28 April 2011
Damien McGrane  (Getty Images)
Damien McGrane (Getty Images)

Ireland’s Damien McGrane holds a one shot lead after the opening round of the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea.

The 40 year old compiled a six under par 66 at Blackstone GC to lie one clear of Chile’s Felipe Aguilar, England’s Richard Finch and home favourite Park Sang-hyun.

“I made plenty of birdies and I putted nicely,” McGrane said after mixing eight birdies with two bogeys.

“I holed everything inside 15 feet, so I made two bogeys which were out of nowhere really but that's golf I suppose.

“The fairways are generous, and just like last week, you make birdies on day one and keep going till the end of the tournament.

“That's what I started off doing, so hopefully I'll do it at end of the tournament.”

McGrane has not had a top-20 finish yet this season, but his 22nd place at last week’s Volvo China Open – where he picked up his only European Tour title three years ago - was his best of the campaign.

“I hit a few good iron shots there at the end, and I hit good putts, and obviously I like to finish strong and I finished strong there today,” he added.

Finch has also gone three years without a European Tour victory, but the 33 year old has been in good form recently, notching up three top-11 finishes in his last seven outings.

“It's been steady really,” he said after a bogey-free round with five birdies – the highlight a four at the last after reaching the green in two with a “Monica Seles-style grunt” and two-putting.

“It was quite bizarre. I played lovely in Bahrain and sneaked up at the end with a good last round there. That got me to about 20 or something. Then Qatar, played nice there - that was a good week.

“Málaga was a strange week, because I had been playing well and not really scoring but that week I didn't play very well and scored brilliantly. That was one I was pleased to have finished as high up as I did, but didn't feel as if I could have done any better than that.

“Last week never quite got into it, and scoring was so low, you have one mediocre round - I was pleased it was a good round last week to move up.

“Today I feel like I got up out of the right side of the bed and a few things went my way when I hit putts too hard, and I'm thinking, please hit the hole, and it sort of hit the hole and disappeared and it's like, oh, that's a two shot swing basically. There is that little bit of the X factor sort of thing where you do need that little bit of luck and things to go your way. Hopefully I still have a bit left in the tank but certainly took advantage today.”

Like Finch, Aguilar has been in fine form recently after finishing sixth in Spain last month and third in Malaysia two weeks ago.

And he continued his good run with four birdies in an outward 32 en route to a bogey-free round.

“You never know until the fat lady sings,” he said. “It's just the beginning of the round - you can lose the tournament today, you can't win it.

“We are just getting ourselves in position to be in contention. I came off to a pretty hot start.

“I made a couple of long putts that really helped, and I could really feel the tension, especially coming into the last couple of holes, but really happy with the round.”

Park is playing only his third European Tour event, but the 26 year old was in good form with six birdies and a single dropped shot.

“Overall, I think I did pretty well today, and, in fact, because of the distance of each course isn't that long, I actually focused not on getting long hits but actually getting my ball on the fairway,” he said.

World Number One Lee Westwood double bogeyed his last hole of the day for a level par 72, which was two behind his Ryder Cup opponent Dustin Johnson.

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