England’s Tom Whitehouse overcame a freak wrist injury to drive himself to the head of the Cadillac Russian Open leaderboard with an outstanding first round of six under par 66 in damp, drizzly conditions at Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, taking a one shot lead from Spain’s Jesus Maria Arruti, Scotland’s David Drysdale, Swedish pair Mikael Lundberg and Fredrik Widmark as well as two time Russian Open Champion Iain Pyman of England.
Whitehouse endured the worst conditions of the day playing in the early morning matches, but was undeterred by either the weather or his injury as he put together an excellent display to move into the lead. Seven birdies and just a single dropped shot saw Whitehouse post the early mark in the clubhouse.
The 25 year old Englishman had spent Wednesday evening watching television interviews with Colin Montgomerie explaining his own wrist injury to the world’s media at the US PGA Championship, and he immediately identified with the Ryder Cup star’s problem when awoke on Thursday morning with a similar problem.
He refused to be affected by the injury though, playing quite brilliantly through the pain to produce the best round of the day and take a one stroke lead from Arruti, Drysdale, Lundberg, Pyman and Widmark, with four players tied together in seventh place on four under par.
“I woke up this morning with a lot of pain on the inside of my wrist,” said Whitehouse. “I put some ice on it this morning and it really hurt but I just gritted my teeth for the first nine to be honest and it kind of eased off as I went round. I could still feel it and I hit some strange shots but the sore wrist made it easier to take because you can just blame the sore wrist rather than thinking that you have made a bad swing!
“It’s funny because I was watching Colin Montgomerie getting grilled by the American Press about the fact he hadn’t hit a shot out of the rough before playing in the US PGA today, but I think he’s right to do so because it really hurts playing out of the rough when you have a wrist injury, I can vouch for that.”
Pyman played in the same half of the draw as Whitehouse and emerged from the recording area with a soggy smile having signed for 67.
The 32 year old, who won the Russian Open in 1999 and 2002, got off to a great start by chipping in for eagle at the par five second hole and added six birdies, eight pars and three dropped shots to leads the chasing pack hot on Whitehouse’s tail.
For Pyman, returning to Russia always evokes fond memories and boosts confidence, and he is feeling good this week having finished in the top ten in his last two Challenge Tour events.
“I think when you have won at a certain place you are automatically confident about the course and playing the tournament,” he confirmed. “Also, I have been playing well for the past month or so anyway. I’ve been in the top ten at the last two Challenge Tour events so it was a case of coming here and trying to keep that going really.
"And when you come back to a place where you have won the memories come flooding back and you know that you can win if you are in a position to do so come Sunday afternoon. You know you have been there and done it which is a big help, but, for the moment, it’s just a question of trying to get into that position. There is a long way to go but I will be playing with the same aggression over the next three rounds and we will see where that takes me.”
Arruti, Drysdale, Lundberg and Widmark, twice a Challenge Tour winner this season, meanwhile, benefited from the favourable weather conditions in the afternoon, as the rain dried up and the sun shone bright over Le Meridien Moscow Country Club.
All four players posted 67s to join the Pyman in the chase behind Whitehouse, with Spain’s José Manuel Carriles, the English duo of Ben Mason and Shaun Webster, and Welshman Craig Williams on four under par and a further five players tied together on three under.