Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn surged into the lead of the Via Digital Open de España with an outstanding opening round of 64, eight under par, over the magnificent El Saler links near Valencia.
Oldcorn, whose last European Tour victory came six years ago in the DHL Jersey Open, fired eight birdies in the space of 12 holes from the third, including five in a row from the tenth, to move two clear of Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy at the top of the leaderboard. Remesy, winner of the Estoril Open two years ago fired seven birdies in total, his only dropped shot coming on the tenth.
The Scot had only competed previously in Dubai and Madeira this season after re-assessing his priorities in life.
He explained: "Two things have made me change my attitude on the golf course and in life - the birth of my daughter, Natasha, and the death of my friend and manager, Alan Maxwell. Both events happened over the past six months."
Now, having devoted time to Natasha, he is back, focused and, in his own words, "played excellent golf on a great but demanding course".
Oldcorn’s supremely accurate display eclipsed the earlier round of Darren Clarke, who looked as if he might threaten Bernhard Langer’s course record of 62 when he burst out of the blocks with six birdies in his first six holes. But Clarke lost his momentum with a run of nine pars and then bogied the seventh on his way to an opening 67, five under par.
Clarke was joined on five under by Scotland’s Graham Rankin, playing his rookie season after finishing runner-up at last year’s Qualifying School Finals. Rankin made his first cut of the year in Morocco last week, and he thrived on the back nine today, picking up five birdies in total, to move into joint third position.
Also on five under par 67 are Carlos Rodiles, the leading Spaniard after the first round, and England’s Andrew Raitt, who charged up the leaderboard with a run of six birdies in seven holes. Late in the day another rookie Carl Pettersson, of Sweden, the European Amateur Champion who finished second behind Angel Cabrera in the Open de Argentina earlier this month, joined them on five under par.
The clear skies and gorgeous east coast links also provided a welcome homecoming for Spanish duo Sergio Garcia and José Maria Olazábal. Both posted 69s in their first tournament this year on European soil after spending the bulk of their winters playing on the US Tour. They were joined in the group on three under par by another Spaniard Diego Borrego, the last player to win a European Tour event at El Saler having captured the Turespaña Masters Open Communitat Valenciana Paradores de Turismo in 1996.