A change of putting fortunes for John Bickerton and Michael Campbell helped lift them to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the centenary Open de France ALSTOM at Le Golf National.
Englishman Bickerton led the way with a flawless eight under par 63, just one stroke outside the Albatross course record, while New Zealand’s Campbell benefited from a new putter to finish two strokes adrift on six under par 65.
For Campbell it meant was a parting of ways with the putter that helped him win the US Open Championship and the HSBC World Match Play Championship last year.
“It wasn’t working,” said Campbell of his old faithful putter which has been his companion for the past two years. “It is in my office now. I am sure it will be back but right now it needs to be rested.”
Instead Campbell took to the course with a new Odyssey Two-Ball putter to help him correct his alignment. And while he missed a three footer on the first for par after looking down and wondering what he had in his hand, he was soon on a roll with a series of 25 and 30 foot putts.
A weight had also been lifted from his shoulders with the US Open defence behind him and with his mind free of clutter, Campbell was back to his best. No fewer than 17 greens were hit in regulation and with his new found confidence with the short stick, he needed only 30 putts.
“The last couple of months with other commitments off the golf course it has been hard to focus on one thing which is playing golf,” said Campbell. “Today was a prime example of when the mind is free things can come to fruition.”
Bickerton also benefited from a massive improvement to his putting after the Englishman rediscovered an elusive feeling which clicked into place on the putting green the previous day.
“You just get a feeling,” said Bickerton, winner of the Abama Open de Canarias last year. “You hole a couple of the first few holes and build confidence from that anyway but in general you are on the range of the putting green and something clicks. That was the feeling I had yesterday. It might be different tomorrow. But it made me feel good today and gave me one thought to work on and that is sometimes the key to playing well, not having too much on your mind.”
Bickerton, who also lost a play-off to Niclas Fasth for the Open de España en Andalucia earlier this year, picked up three birdies in his first nine, the back nine at Le Golf National, and then raced home with five more birdies to equal his lowest round on The European Tour.
Swede Joakim Bäckström looked on course to establishing a new course record after racing to eight under par through 13 holes but faltered over the treacherous closing stretch with three bogeys in the last four holes for a round of 66, five under par.
Defending Champion Jean-Francois Remesy opened his account with a three under par 68 to head the home challenge in the 100th anniversary edition of his national Open, the oldest of the continental Opens. Remesy is going for a hat-trick of tiltes while Jean Van de Velde, the man he beat in a play-off 12 months ago, is a shot further back on two under par alongside Jean-Francois Lucquin.