José-Filipe Lima of Portugal built on his third place in China last weekend by grabbing a share of the lead with England’s Graeme Storm after day one of the Andalucia Open de España Valle Romano at a sun-drenched San Roque Club.
The pair returned seven under par 65s, a record for San Roque’s New Course, and sit a stroke clear of a five-strong group that includes three local favourites in Raul Ballesteros, nephew of the five-time Major champion, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Juan Parron.
It was Ballesteros who set the tournament alight in the perfect morning conditions with a breathtaking display that saw the 25 year old reach the eighth tee, his 17th, at nine under par.
One more birdie and he would have matched the lowest round of his uncle’s glittering career. But instead he finished bogey-double bogey and dropped into a share of second place with Titch Moore of South Africa, England’s Miles Tunnicliff and Spanish compatriots Parron and Jiménez.
“I got a bit nervous - I was thinking, ‘I am nine under’. I’ve never been nine under for 16 holes before. It’s not my best score. I have had a couple of 61s at my home course in small events, but it is my best result on The European Tour,” said Raul.
The Spaniard is trying to gain a European Tour card, which he has never held, from seven invitations this year but missed the cut in the Madeira Island Open Caixa Geral de Depositos and came 71st out of the 76 finishers in the Algarve Open de Portugal Caixa Geral de Depositos.
By contrast, Lima and Storm are playing on the back of good results in last week’s BMW Asian Open in China. Lima, the 2004 Aa St Omer Open winner, tied third while 1999 British Amateur Champion Storm was joint 13th.
Starting from the tenth, Lima found himself six under for six holes before the effects of a broken night’s sleep kicked in. “For five holes on the back nine I was a little tired with jet-lag after the two events in Asia,” he said, by way of explanation for a bogey at the tenth and a run of pars.
However, the Portuguese rallied with birdies at eight and nine to finish with a 65, which beat the previous course record of 66 set by Anders Sjöstrand and Tom Whitehouse at the 2005 Qualifying School. “Seven under is great. I am really pleased overall,” added Lima.
Moments later Storm went within a whisker of usurping Lima but his six foot putt at the last horseshoed around the lip and he tapped in for a par and a share of the lead.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but everything seems to be going in the right direction. I have put the work in and hopefully the rewards will keep coming,” he said.
Defending champion Peter Hanson of Sweden is well placed after a five under par 67 while Colin Montgomerie, the highest ranked player in the field, signed for a 68 after a couple of bad breaks hindered his progress.
First, his regular caddie Alistair McLean had to fly home with a virus and the 42 year old Scot had to recruit a new bagman only two hours before his round. Luckily he was able to call upon the experienced Owen Craig, the former caddie of Thomas Levet who is on holiday with his girlfriend in Valderrama.
Then at the fifth, Montgomerie’s 14th, his ball bounced off the cart path into bushes and he ran up a double-bogey six.
“The double-bogey stopped me in my tracks,” said the Scot. “Hopefully that will be the only bad score of the week.”