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Thursday, 22 April 2004
David Park, who ended last week’s Open de Sevilla with a 65 to carve out a top ten finish, continued to tap into a rich vein of form when a course record six under par 64 gave him the lead after the first round of the Canarias Open de España at Fuerteventura Golf Club.

While the swirling wind around the Canary Island made scoring difficult for the majority of the competitors, Park’s adhesion to finding the fairways and the middle of the greens allowed him to plunder six birdies from the course without loss to open up a one shot lead on the field.

On a good day for Wales, Park’s fellow countryman Jamie Donaldson moved into second after opening with a 65 while England’s Roger Chapman made light of the fact he did not have a practice round, carding a 66 on his first look at the golf course to share third spot with Frenchman Christian Cévaër.

But the day belonged to Park, who started with a birdie three at the first hole and followed that with further gains at the third, ninth, tenth, 13th and 17th, the most spectacular of these coming at the 450 yard tenth hole where he pitched in for a birdie three from all of 30 yards short of the pin.

The Welshman made a blistering start to his European Tour career, losing in a play-off in his first tournament before winning his second, the 1999 Compaq European Grand Prix. But he admitted that, perhaps, the win had been a mixed blessing.

“It was a little difficult to deal with because to win was obviously a goal of mine but it came a bit quicker than I had envisioned so it was a bit of a shock to the system,” he said. “It was sort of, ‘where do I go from here?’ and it took me a little while to figure it out.

“I didn’t really improve for a while. There were a couple of years where I stagnated a bit in all aspects of my game while every one else improved. But I have improved over the last few years so I am just trying to continue to do that.

“Obviously I would love to win again as soon as possible. As soon as I won that is what I was trying to do but it has not really worked out that way. I am just going to try and play my own game and see what happens.”

Fellow countryman Donaldson ended last season strongly to post his best Volvo Order of Merit position – 58th – and admitted he was still keen to attain one of his goals for this year, namely to break into the top 20, the other being to claim his maiden European Tour victory.

“This is my third full season and I have been improving every year,” he said. “I have been working on my swing hard in the winter but it takes a little bit of time for everything to sink in. Hopefully this week it will sink in nicely.”

Certainly if he continues to play the way he did in the first round at Fuerteventura, he will have every chance of achieving that objective, bogeys at the third and tenth holes more than compensated for by seven birdies elsewhere on his way to a 65.

Like Donaldson, third placed Chapman also had two bogeys in his opening 66 but tipped the balance in the right direction with six birdies, a truly remarkable achievement after having only arrived on the island at 9.00pm on Wednesday night and having to rely on his caddie Colin Smith, who had walked the course twice, for all the lines and yardages.

“Had a nice chat with George O’Grady on the flight over, watched a film, got in at nine o’clock, went to bed, turned up and the course and hit it – perfect!” said Chapman. “That might be the way I approach all my preparations from now on.”

Alongside the Englishman, Christian Cévaër staged a late rally to move up to the higher echelons of the leaderboard, the 34 year old Frenchman featuring an eagle three at the 502 yard 17th on his card on the way to his 66.

Elsewhere, one of the pre-tournament favourites, José Maria Olazábal, had a difficult day on the greens as his putts steadfastly refused to drop on his way, the result being an opening one over par 71.

“I didn’t hit the ball too badly from tee to green but when it doesn’t go in the hole it makes it difficult,” said the two time Masters Champion. “I just need to hole a couple of good putts and things might change for me.”

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