Big-hitting Argentinian Angel Cabrera powered his way to the top of the first round leaderboard in the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, his excellent nine under par 63 equalling the course record set by Wayne Riley a decade ago.
One of the longest drivers on The European Tour helped himself to seven birdies and an eagle to beat his previous best showing on the West Course by four shots and open up a two shot lead, his nearest challengers being Welshman Phillip Price, who opened with a 65, and Ireland’s Paul McGinley, Australia’s Nick O’Hern and Scotland's Andrew Oldcorn, who all posted 66s
But although many players ended the day in red figures, it was Cabrera who stole the show, taking advantage of the easier morning conditions to reach the turn in two under par 33 before powering home in seven under par figures of 30, picking up five shots in the four holes from the tenth before closing in style too with birdie fours at both the 17th and 18th.
The Argentinian, nicknamed ‘The Duck’, broke his own personal European Tour duck with his maiden victory in the Open de Argentina last month and followed that by leading the Masters at Augusta for a spell on the final day before finishing tenth.
``It gives you a lot of confidence and makes you realise you can be fighting with the biggest,” he said. “But I'm not trying to hit it longer than Tiger or anybody. I'm just trying to improve my game and I'm not interested in how far I hit it. It's natural.''
Second placed Price also continued to tap into a rich vein of form, having won his first title of the year last month in the Algarve Open de Portugal at Quinta do Lago.
But unlike the Argentinian, Price made his move on the front nine, birdieing five holes out of seven from the third to reach the turn in 30.
“I think the difference for me recently has been the win in Portugal,” said Price. “It just boosted my confidence you know, you just relax a little bit more and flow a little better.
“It never really worried me that much until the guys on the television kept commentating on the fact that I hadn’t won for such a long time and then it started to pray on my mind a little.
“But overall I have improved from a few years ago. My whole game has improved an awful lot. My results have improved as has my ability to shoot lower rounds. So I know, if I can play well now, then I can do a lot of damage.”
One shot further adrift, Paul McGinley, who in the past two weeks has jumped from 14th to seventh in the Ryder Cup points table, like Price, continued his push for a debut.
Trying to be as patient as possible four years on from his last individual victory and with five top ten finishes in his last seven events, McGinley holed his approach to the 403-yard 11th as he raced to seven under par after 13 holes. But he bogeyed the 15th and failed to birdie either of the two closing par fives and had to settle for 66.
McGinley admitted that the secret to getting off to a good start in a tournament was not to be too gung-ho from the word go.
“Believe it or not, recently I’ve been playing less aggressively starting out, feeling my way into the course and the pace of the greens and trying not to make any mistakes and putting myself on the back foot,” he said. “But any time you start 4-3-4 at Wentworth you’ve got to be happy and I did that today.”
Joining McGinley on the six under par mark late in the day was Nick O’Hern, who was the only one of the leading contenders not to drop a shot around the West Course and repeated his form of last year in the tournament where he claimed the first round lead after a 65.
“I’ve been playing pretty solid over the past few weeks,” he said. “What I’ve been working with on my coach has been pretty simple stuff and it seems to work and keep on working. So I understand my game and had a good round, which is the main thing.”
And Scotland's Andrew Oldcorn produced one of his best rounds of the year in the gathering gloom, birdieing the last two holes to card his own 66.
Elsewhere, shot of the day was recorded by Mikael Lundberg, who recorded the first ace of his professional career, holing in one at the 184 yard tenth hole with a five iron. But the Swede admitted although the result was fantastic, it had not been the most sweetly struck shot of all time.
“I actually pulled the shot a little and it finished about 15 yards right of the flag, but it caught the contours of the green and rolled down into the hole,” said Lundberg, who was presented with a magnum of champagne by Moet & Chandon to mark his achievement.
While Lundberg’s tenth provided the least number of shots on one particular hole all day, the 17th gave defending champion Colin Montgomerie the dubious honour of carding one of the highest number, driving out of bounds and then sending his second ball into the trees on his way to a triple bogey eight.
“It’s disappointing today obviously but it’s not the end of the world,” said Montgomerie, who is striving to win the Volvo PGA Championship title for a record-breaking fourth year in succession.
“I think I’ll need something like 65 tomorrow to get back in contention. I’m quite capable of doing that and I’m looking forward to doing it. I started well with a birdie today so if that starts happening tomorrow we’ll see what happens. But I need a 65, minimum.”