Angel Cabrera of Argentina birdied the final four holes for an inward 30 and an eight under par 63 – one stroke outside Bernhard Langer’s seemingly untouchable course record – to take a four shot lead into the second round of the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Valderrama.
The 33 year old from Cordoba shot a 61 only last week, but admitted that a 63 at Valderrama constituted one of his greatest achievements over 18 holes. Cabrera, the current Benson and Hedges International Open champion, leads by four from Welsh Ryder Cup hero Phillip Price and by five from a group of five players.
Meanwhile in the contest for the Volvo Order of Merit title, there was still little to chose between the only two men who can become European Number One on Sunday night, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington.
The pair are only separated by €23,119 (£14,538), with Goosen just holding the whip hand in his bid to retain the Harry Vardon Trophy. After the first round, in which the pair played together, Goosen shot a two over par 73 and Harrington a 74, the latter having incurred a two stroke penalty at the first hole.
Cabrera, though, was in imperious form as he bagged birdie after birdie on the back nine to establish his healthy advantage over the field. He said: "It’s been a fantastic rounds, one of those rounds you dream about when you start a tournament.
“I started well and everything went perfectly after that. I didn’t know that 62 was the course. My only aim was the finish as well as I started and that’s what happened with my four birdies at the end. I had a 61 last week in Italy but in view of the course, this must be one of my best rounds.”
Price admitted he “battled well” for his four under par 67, just a matter of days since returning from a successful start to his bid to gain a card on the US PGA Tour. Price took third place in Stage One of the Qualifying School in Florida, a week behind schedule after the event at Red Wolf Run in Texas was washed out due to rain and move to Orlando.
“I have to go back and try to get through four rounds in Stage Two then another six rounds in the Finals” he explained. “I was starting to think to myself: ‘What am I doing here?’ Quite a few of the Americans were asking what I was doing in Stage One and one of the tournament officials said: ‘The regulations will be changed next year but you have to suffer.’”
As Cabrera and Price made hay in the Spanish sunshine, Goosen and Harrington did not quite spark. There were three shots between the pair after only one hole when Goosen birdied and Harrington, uncharacteristically, picked up a two stroke penalty and finished with a double bogey six.
The Irishman repaired a pitch mark on the fringe of the first green while his ball was still off the putting surface and, under rule 13-2, he had improved his line and he immediately summoned European Tour Referee, Paul Carrigill, who confirmed the offence and the punishment – two strokes.
Defending champion Harrington said: “These things happen. I just walked up and fixed the pitch mark which looked like it was on the green because of the shade. As I was digging there seemed to be a little more grass than you would expect and a bell went off in my head. I knew the rule and obviously it was a two shot penalty. Nobody saw, but I knew straight away.”
Despite another double bogey at the 17th, Harrington did finish with a flourish and his nine iron from the trees at the 18th came to rest 20 feet away, from where he despatched the putt for a welcome birdie three.
Goosen, meanwhile, also suffered misfortune at one of the par fives, taking a double bogey seven at the 11th on his way to a ragged 73 but still retains a fragile edge over his main rival for the Volvo Order of Merit.
Five players share third place on 68, three under par – England’s Brian Davis and Simon Dyson, Bradley Dredge of Wales, Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden and Denmark’s Steen Tinning, the recent winner of the Telefonica Open de Madrid.