While the majority of the attention centred around the machinations of Ryder Cup qualification, South Africa’s Retief Goosen got on with the business of trying to win the BMW International Open and started in fine style, an opening six under par 66 giving him the first round lead.
The reigning US Open champion, back in action for the first time since the Open Golf Championship after suffering a pelvic injury while jet-skiing on holiday in Barbados, was in fine form in difficult conditions at Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried, carding eight birdies in total to finish a shot clear of four players, John Daly, David Lynn, Colin Montgomerie and Peter O’Malley.
“It is still hurting a little bit when I walk and especially in the pro-am yesterday when I finished it was pretty sore,” said Goosen. “But with good rest last night, today was a little easier walking around the course. Of course, playing well keeps your mind on the game.
“I am really surprised to be hitting the ball so well though. I expected it to be worse than it was but today I hit it nice and solid. I only missed a few fairways and putted really nicely.”
Testament to that were the eight birdies putts he stroked home from a variety of distances which more than made up for his two dropped shots of the day, at his opening hole, the tenth, where he missed the green with his approach, and at the short eighth where his six iron tee shot found sand.
In the group one shot adrift of the 2001 and 2002 Volvo Order of Merit winner was the man who claimed that particular crown seven times in a row in the 1990s, Colin Montgomerie, who produced a superb and flawless five under par 67 in the worst of the morning’s wind and rain.
Highlight of the round for the 41 year old Scot was an eagle three at his 15th hole of the day, the par five sixth, where his five wood second shot found the centre of the green before he rolled in the 15 foot eagle putt.
Elsewhere Montgomerie birdied the fifth, ninth and 16th to enable him to do exactly what he hoped to do at the start of the week, namely put himself in the forefront of captain Bernhard Langer’s thoughts when it comes to issuing the wild cards for the Ryder Cup Team on Sunday night.
Understandably, the Scot did not want to be drawn on that issue, preferring instead to heap praise on caddie Alastair McLean, with whom he won all his Order of Merit titles, and with whom he was re-united in Munich this week after a two year hiatus.
“I’ve always put a huge emphasis on who carries my bag and I’ve missed Alastair these last two years I suppose,” admitted Montgomerie. “I think we got a bit stale after ten and a half years together and I think it was right we both went off to find new ground.
“But I am delighted he is back on the bag. I think it just gives me confidence and if you think you are going to achieve something, you are halfway there. I feel very confident with Alastair there, with the clubs in my hand and everything around the game.
“We were both very wise never to shut the door on a player/caddie relationship and I was glad that I was able to call him on Sunday. He was on holiday, but he said that he would come back and help me out.”
One of the players alongside Montgomerie was Australian Peter O’Malley who, like Goosen, returned to sparkling form after a spell away from the game, this time on holiday in his native Australia, with an adventurous 67 which featured nine birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey six at the 16th where his bound found a watery grave.
“Apart from that I only missed one other green and a couple of fairways,” he said. “I putted really nicely and made a nice little birdie run in the middle of my back nine. I just went out and played and really am refreshed.”
Another player on 67 after the opening sorties was American John Daly, the winner of the tournament in 2001, and who again showed his liking for the Munich course with a six birdie effort.
“My putter was working a little better today,” said the self-styled Wild Thing. “Last week I hit the ball really well and didn’t make anything. Today I made a lot of good putts which definitely helps your score.”
Making up the quartet on five under par was England’s David Lynn, who showed he had lost none of the form which brought him his maiden European Tour victory in The KLM Open earlier this month in The Netherlands, with a flawless round.
“I’m really pleased with that, because there are a couple of tough holes out there,” he said. “It was a little strange going out there today to be honest, both me and Gary (Emerson), coming off wins and having a week off, we both said we felt a little bit strange, if anything you are put under a little more pressure, different sort of pressure, so to go out there and shoot that, not really feeling great about my game is awesome.”
Five players finished their opening rounds on 68, Alex Cejka, Luke Donald, Raphael Jacquelin, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Michael Jonzon.