A tough opening day at the San Roque Club resulted in a log jam at the top of the leaderboard with seven players tied for the lead in the Jazztel Open de España en Andalucia.
Strong, gusty winds swept across the immaculately conditioned San Roque Course as players battled to keep their cards intact. None of 156 players in the field broke 70 and as the dust settled, no fewer than 88 players found themselves within four strokes of the lead.
Among those bunched at the top on two under par 70 were three Spaniards as Diego Borrego, Santiago Luna and José Rivero gave the home fans plenty to cheer about as they successfully negotiated the tight fairways, avoiding the numerous water hazards on the way.
They were joined by the Swedish pair of Peter Gustafsson, winner of the European Tour Qualifying School here last November, and Peter Hanson along with Italy’s Emanuale Canonica and Scot Steven O’Hara.
It was a great day for Rivero in particular as the 49 year old, who joins the senior ranks in September, showed the young guns he still has a trick or two up his sleeve as he followed a dropped shot on his first hole with three birdies, showing the form which brought him two Ryder Cup appearances, both on the winning European Team in 1985 and 1987, and four European Tour titles.
“This week I am just playing to enjoy myself and have fun with the other golfers,” he said. “I have no further aspirations and have no intention of coming back on Tour. I want to play the Seniors Tour. That is my goal.”
Luna is another player who has acquired plenty of experience over the years and he put that to good effect with four birdies and just the two dropped shots.
“It was a good round,” said Luna, winner of the 1995 Madeira Island Open. “I tried to be in the right place all the time and I am putting well. The chances I had I made it. That’s the key to doing a good score. There is a lot of dangerous places and the wind is not constant. Sometimes is it hard sometimes gusty and it is difficult to get the right club. But it is a good test. The condition of the golf course is excellent and it is a good test for us.”
As for seeing Rivero at the top of the leaderboard, Luna added: “I am happy for José too because he has now retired and you can see he can still shoot good scores. It is good for him and for the people to see his name on the board.”
Gustafsson may be Swedish but he can also lay claim to being local, living as he does in nearby Puerto Banus. San Roque is a course he is particularly familiar with, not only through his experience of winning the six round Qualifying School last November, but also as he regularly practices here.
At one stage he looked to be pulling clear of the pack having reached four under par with a birdie on the 16th with two to play but two visits to the water in his last two holes cost him dear as he dropped back into the pack.
“It was a very bad finish but still I was lucky on the Q-School, when I holed out from a bunker to win on the last, so it evens out,” said Gustafsson, easily recognizable by his colourful hats, 30 of which he has in his wardrobe. “I am satisfied to be two under. It was a tough start to the tournament in the wind so just try and stay out of trouble.”
Hours spent practising his putting stroke on the bedroom carpet at home whilst watching the Masters Tournament last week paid dividends for O’Hara as he too posted a two under par 70.
Canonica eagled the par four 15th hole on his way to a two under par score while Hanson and Borrego, twice a winner on The European Tour International Schedule, matched the score having both made four birdies with two bogeys.