The BA-CA Golf Open, presented by Telekom Austria – Austria’s National Open Championship – made a perfect return to The European Tour International Schedule as Austria’s Number One player, Markus Brier, seized the day at the stunning Fontana Golf Club with an opening score of six under par 65, including a hole in one, to move into a one stroke lead.
It was a perfect day for Brier, summed up by his ace on the par three 11th hole, a seven iron from 158 yards for which he was awarded a Citroen Pluriel car. Before his hole in one, Brier was one under for the day having put together three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, but is confidence soared as a result of that perfect seven iron and he tore his way up the leaderboard, finishing the day with a great birdie on the 18th, to finish the first round on top of the pile.
The 37 year old, who is attached to Fontana Golf Club, leads Colombia’s Jorge Benedetti, the English pair of Simon Dyson and Oliver Whiteley, and Germany’s Sven Strüver by one, with a further seven players, including eight time Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez, a further stroke back.
Denmark’s Thomas Björn and Ireland’s Paul McGinley – the last man to win the Austrian Open as a European Tour event in 1996 – carded respective first round scores of one under and level par, but the day belonged to Brier, who delighted the huge crowds who followed him round this beautiful venue with an excellent first round performance.
After signing for his 65, Brier spoke of his desire to capture his third BA-CA Golf Open presented by Telekom Austria, which would mark a maiden European Tour victory for the man from Vienna. His previous two victories in the event came on the Challenge Tour, and he is hoping to follow Italy’s Francesco Molinari on the 2006 International Schedule as the second home winner of a National Open Championship.
“I saw the hole in one all the way – there was a little drizzle but it was a perfect shot. The wind was just off the left and I just drew it in and it bounced three feet from the hole and rolled in,” smiled Brier.
“The birdie on the last just put the icing on the cake of a perfect day. I was comfortable with the putter all day. At the start of the day I was hitting it really close and got a couple of birdies and then I struggled a bit but after the ninth I hit all the fairways and greens and had lots of chances.
“The crowd were great with me today – but that’s probably because I know half of them by name! I could stand there and wave at them all but I have learned the lesson not to do that. I had to learn not to do that – sometimes I will say hello to people but not too much. I have had to learn to use it to my advantage and I always say to people that when I am the golf course I am on my own.
“It would be great to win here this week. I won it twice on the Challenge Tour which was great for me because I never won when I actually played on the Challenge Tour. But that’s my goal for the week. I actually finished second in my fifth event on Tour and since then I still have to beat that.”
While Brier waxed lyrical about his hopes for the week, the rest of the players in the field heaped praise on the Fontana Golf Club, with many of them judging the exclusive venue among the best they have ever seen on The European Tour.
Montgomerie led the praise, commenting, “The greens are very very good, the best greens we have had,” while Björn compared the putting surfaces to the hallowed greens of Augusta National Golf Club.
He said: “The quality of the greens here reminds me very much of Augusta. They are that fast and as undulated as Augusta and they are of that quality.