England’s David Lynn shot a career low 63, seven under par, to open up a one stroke lead over the field after the first round of the KLM Open at Hilversumche Golf Club in The Netherlands.
Lynn leads by one from compatriot Andrew Raitt with four players, including Ireland’s Paul McGinley, one of the four players in the field battling for a place in the European Ryder Cup Team, on five under par 65.
Three birdies in the first three holes got Lynn off to a flying start, hitting his approach shot stiff on the first before holing putts of 20 and 30 feet respectively on the next two holes. A fourth birdie of the day followed on the seventh on his way to an outward half of 31.
His only dropped shot came on the 11th, where his three iron approach ran through the green, but he responded with an eagle on the very next hole, again hitting a three iron second shot but this time converting from 25 feet. Another shot was picked up on the par three 15th before closing his round off with a two putt birdie on the final hole.
“The game has been feeling really good the last few months but my putting has not been great. Today there was a bit of a reversal. I was working on my putting when I got here on Tuesday and something has dropped in, feels really nice but the game doesn’t feel as in control as it has done. But it was the lowest round of my career so delighted about that.”
Much of the talk this week centres around The Ryder Cup with just four weeks remaining to qualify for the European Team travelling to Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, next month. The main focus in that respect is on four players in the running – David Howell and Ian Poulter, both currently in the qualifying places, and Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley, both trying to force their way into the Team.
The honours on the first day went to McGinley, a player who will always hold a place in Ryder Cup folklore having holed the winning putt at The De Vere Belfry two years ago.
An eagle on the final hole completed an impressive opening 65, five under par, as he looks to make up ground on those players currently in the team. He is currently €213,417 behind Joakim Haegmann, the tenth placed player.
“The bottom line is I am either going to do it or I am not but the fun is trying,” said McGinley. “It is an exciting thing. It is fun being in the melting pot and trying to make the team. People say you should forget the Ryder Cup but I don’t agree with that. I think you have to enjoy it and enjoy the process. I did that the last time. I was in a similar situation and ended up going away from the rest of the guys and making the team comfortably.
“There is a pressure. It is a Team I really want to make and it is fun trying to do it. It is a fun goal to be looking to. And there is a lot of adrenaline, even in the first round of the tournament starting at 9am, a lot of adrenaline because of what you can achieve.”
Poulter, holding ninth place in the Team with four events to play, enjoyed one of his best days of the year on the greens as he rolled in seven birdies, but four dropped shots saw him finish four off the early pace.
“I’m fired up,” said the Englishman who missed out on qualifying for the Team last time by just one place. “I just want to get it done and dusted out there. And just enjoy it. I didn’t get frustrated at any time out there. Even when I made bogey I laughed. That’s what you have to do. If you are going to be out there and stressed out it is going to be an even longer day and week for you. Just conserve your energy, do what you need to do and get out of there.”
Ulsterman McDowell, one place ahead of McGinley in the race, bogeyed the last for a 69, one under par, while Howell, eighth in the current standings, fought his way back from poor start where he dropped five shots in the first ten holes with four birdies in the last six to finish on level par 70.
As amateurs Howell and Raitt were walking a similar path but while Howell is looking ahead to a possible Ryder Cup debut, Raitt is looking to quit the game at the end of the year. Since having had the end of a finger bitten off by a dog in 1997, Raitt has been plagued by injury problems and has decided it is time to hang up the clubs. Instead he is concentrating his efforts on a new business venture with his business partner and caddie this week, Paul Thornley, developing a new indoor practice facility known as the “15th Club”, launched in England three weeks ago and already dispatched to Japan and Hong Kong.
Joining McGinley, a shot adrift of Raitt, is Australian Richard Green, showing signs of the form that brought him two runners-up finishes in successive weeks prior to thje Open, New Zealand’s Stephen Scahill and Challenge Tour graduate Martin Wiegele of Austria.