Sweden’s Mårten Olander equalled the European Tour record of eight consecutive birdies on his way to a five under par 67 to share the first round lead of the Novotel Perrier Open de France with local favourite Jean-Francois Remesy and the 2000 Champion Colin Montgomerie.
Olander gave no hint of the fireworks that were to come when he double bogeyed two of his first three holes at Le Golf National. But a birdie on the par five focused the 30 year old and with ten holes to play he started his run. A birdie on the 18th, where he chipped and putted from the left side of the green was the first of a sensational burst of eight birdies in succession, his last coming on the seventh when he chipped in from 20 yards. His run finally came to an end when he blocked a three iron and was unable to repeat the chip in from the previous hole. Nevertheless he came back with his tenth birdie of the round and ninth in the last ten holes with a four on the last.
Olander’s sole victory to date was also on French soil when he won the Hardelot Challenge de France on his way to graduating from the Challenge Tour last season. That victory also included some unbelievable scoring with 18 birdies in the space of 36 holes in the middle of the tournament.
“It was a strange round,” he said. “Quite a tough start. I was very cold and stiff this morning. But I tried to stay positive because after three holes of a tournament you can’t really conclude what will happen over the next four days. I told myself to focus even harder on each shot and hopefully some birdies will come. And they did.
“I got warmer and more focused the longer the round went. I hit some really nice shots, made some decent putts and I love it when I get a run going because I like seeing how many I can do.
“I wasn’t aware of the record. I wanted to make birdie on eight. I chipped in on seven which was a laugh. Thought I would hit a nice three iron on eight and see what happens. But that is a tough hole. I tried to cut the three iron into a back right pin and blocked it right. I tried to hole the chip but it ran 15 feet by and missed the putt. But it was still a nice run.”
Remesy, the 1999 Estoril Open Champion, led the home challenge after picking up five birdies on the back nine including two in the last three holes. His only blemish came on the 15th where his second shot found the water surrounding the island green on his way to a double bogey six.
Montgomerie won the last time the tournament was held at Le Golf National and started in a manner that showed he has every intention of repeating that victory. Four birdies in the last six holes took him into a share of the lead. The Novotel Perrier Open de France is the first of a run of five tournaments for the seven time Volvo Order of Merit winner, four of which he has won before be got off to the ideal start.
“I spend about three hours on the range this morning working things out technically and took it on to the course,” he said. “ I played quite well. Six birdies, my only dropped shot was the ninth. It was the only green I missed. Pushed a three wood right of the target and had a horrible lie. Didn’t hit the green and missed from about three foot. Missed a number of makeable putts but I was concentrating on just thinking about myself and score 68. I’m one ahead of the game right now. But with the conditions as they were this morning I might need that because the conditions are harder in the mornings.”
Five players share fourth place while the defending champion Jose Maria Olazabal opened his account in the worst of the weather with a three under par 69.