Anthony Wall gave the statisticians work to do as well as his fellow competitors plenty to ponder when he grabbed a three shot lead after the first round of the Volvo Scandinavian Masters at Barsebäck Golf & Country Club.
The 26 year old Londoner’s superb nine under par 63 not only represented his best ever round on The European Tour, it was also the lowest opening round in five stagings of the tournament at the Barsebäck course, and gave Wall the ideal platform to build an assault on his second European Tour title.
On a day of excellent scoring where nearly half the 156 strong field broke par, Wall’s nearest challengers on 66 were a group of four players, Darren Clarke, Søren Hansen, Peter Hedblom and Colin Montgomerie, while a plethora of players ended their first rounds on five under par 67, including Open Championship runner-up Niclas Fasth, European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance and defending champion Lee Westwood.
But the day belonged to Wall who made his intentions clear early in his round, having started at the tenth hole, with four birdies in an excellent outward half of 33.
Three birdies in a row from the first hole then put the Englishman clear at the top of the leaderboard but when he bogeyed the long fifth he dropped back into a share of pole position at six under. But Wall quickly reproduced the form which won him the 2000 Alfred Dunhill Championship with a storming finish, birdieing his final three holes, the seventh, eighth and ninth to grab the tournament by the scruff of the neck.
In the chasing pack, Colin Montgomerie lived up to his word when he moved into a challenging position after his 66. On the eve of the tournament, the 38 year old Scot stated his aim was to put on a performance good enough to cement his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team and he got his quest off to the perfect start.
Montgomerie’s lofty position on the leaderboard looked unlikely however when he opened disappointingly in front of impressive galleries on the parkland course near Malmo.
Starting on the tenth, the Scot's approach found a greenside bunker and, after blasting out well from an awkward lie close to the lip, he missed from four feet to save par.
Worse was to come on the long 12th when, having hit a superb drive down the middle of the fairway, his attempt to go for the green over the corner of the dogleg saw his ball clip the top of a tree before dropping into heavy rough. From there he could only chip out sideways and the resulting bogey six left him two over par after only three holes.
But the seven time Volvo Order of Merit showed his famous grit and determination to battle back. In an incredible run from the 14th hole, Montgomerie notched five birdies and an eagle in the next seven holes to turn his round on its head.
It moved the World Number Ten to five under par and he made sure his finish was as good as his start had been bad, taming the 465 yard ninth hole (his 18th) with an excellent birdie three, holing from 30 feet.
"The conditions are very good for low scoring and it's nice to have my name on the leaderboard,” said Montgomerie, who won the tournament at Barsebäck two years ago, eight years after his first Volvo Scandinavian Masters victory at Drottningholm in 1991.
"After three holes I was two over par and it was not looking good, but walking to the 13th tee (his fourth hole of the day), I just said 'It's a good tournament to win from here!"
Alongside Montgomerie, Hansen, who recorded his best ever finish on The European Tour when he ended tied third in the Via Digital Open de España in April, continued to show such form with a fine opening round.
The only blemish for the Dane came at the same ninth hole where Montgomerie had made birdie, the 27 year old from Copenhagen exhibiting its difficulty with a double bogey six. But elsewhere his golf was exemplary, testimony to that being a harvest of eight birdies, including five in an excellent inward half of 32.
The other players who carded 66, Darren Clarke and Peter Hedblom, were both flawless in their opening sorties, home favourite Hedblom carrying forward the confidence gained from his Challenge Tour victory in the Volvo Finnish Open a fortnight ago.
Clarke too continued to show the consistency which has taken him to the top of the European Ryder Cup points table, pitching and putting at the last to keep a bogey off his card and give himself an excellent chance of adding another European Tour victory to the one he gained in the Smurfit European Open at The K Club a month ago.
Of the players who finished on 67 perhaps the most pleased was defending champion Lee Westwood who had missed four of his last six cuts and who eventually saw a return to some semblance of the form which saw him win the Volvo Order of Merit last year.
The 28-year-old from Worksop had spoken on the eve of the tournament of finally emerging from the "comfort zone" he entered around the birth of his first child, Samuel, earlier this year. After an early bogey, he proved that conclusively to be the case with six birdies and no further dropped shots.
Westwood’s 67 was his first sub-70 round in 17 attempts and his lowest round since his 67 in the second round of the Compass Group English Open at the Marriott Forest of Arden in early June.