David Gilford put the disappointment of losing in a play-off in the Algarve Open de Portugal two weeks ago behind him in fine style in Gran Canaria with a six under par 66 to give him a share of the first round lead in the Canarias Open de España with Søren Hansen.
The 36 year old Englishman dropped only one shot in a consistent afternoon performance around the tricky El Cortijo Club de Campo course to draw level with Hansen who had made his move in the morning.
The leading duo finished a shot ahead of four players who opened their accounts with 67, Greg Owen, Marcel Siem and Jamie Spence joining home fans’ favourite Sergio Garcia who lived up to his pre-tournament billing of favourite by not dropping a shot.
Highlight of Gilford’s round came at the demanding 475 yard par four 18th when he fired a superb two iron approach shot to eight feet and holed the putt for an impressive birdie three.
“I played well and I didn’t really do anything wrong,” he said. “I chipped and putted for par a couple of times but wasn’t really in any trouble at all. I just holed out nicely, not any long ones, but enough.
“I could have come out feeling disappointed after losing in the play-off in Portugal to Carl (Pettersson) but I was pretty pleased really. Obviously it would have been nice to have won but second is the best finish I have had in a number of years so it gave me confidence above all else.”
Another man beginning to feed off the confidence of a good performance was joint leader Hansen, who, like Gilford, carded seven birdies and only one dropped shot at the same hole, the 218 yard fourth.
The 27 year old from Copenhagen partnered Thomas Björn to a share of second place in last season’s World Golf Championships - EMC² World Cup in Japan, the Danes, like New Zealand and America, represented by David Duval and Tiger Woods, surrendering in a play-off to the South African duo of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
“That was a great experience and I learned a lot from that,” he said. “Thomas had taken good care of me before we went to Japan and has been looking out for me afterwards too which is great.
“We played well all week together and walking down the fairway with the best players in the world was good for me and it proved that maybe my game is not that far away from being excellent too.”
Certainly his play at El Cortijo Club de Campo suggested that, especially his run of five birdies in seven holes from the eighth, the highlight being consecutive birdie putts from 25 feet at the 13th and 14th.
Of the quartet on 67, the biggest gallery of the day was drawn, not surprisingly, by World Number Five Garcia who threatened a very low score when he birdied the second and third holes. But a stubborn putter refused to work from then on and he made only three other birdies, at the 11th, 12th and 16th.
“It was a very comfortable 67,” said Garcia. “I played extremely well and hit a lot of great shots. Unfortunately I missed about four putts I should have made. That made the round a little disappointing but apart from that everything else was great. My game was right on target and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”
While Garcia prospered, it was not such a memorable opening day for World Number Four and 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner Retief Goosen who struggled on the greens and could do no better than an opening one over par 73.
“I probably could have made 69 if a few putts had dropped in but I just couldn’t make any,” said Goosen. “Hopefully tomorrow will be a different day and I can find some rhythm and get my game lifted a little bit.”