‘Beware the injured golfer’ is a commonly used idiom within the game but Anders Hansen gave credence to its authenticity once again at the Kennemer Golf & Country Club when he defied the odds to take a share of the lead with Frenchman Christian Cévaër at the end of the first round of The KLM Open.
Both players carded six under par 65s over the windswept Zandvoort links to open up a one shot lead over Austria’s Markus Brier and Robert Rock of England, but while Cévaër’s effort was a textbook one with six birdies and no dropped shots, Hansen’s effort was compiled against an unlikely backdrop.
For a start, the Dane had no practice round after having to pull out of Wednesday’s pro-am with a neck injury and so faced the Kennemer course blind and still in considerable discomfort. Add to that the fact he was playing with a brand new set of irons fresh out of their wrapping, and a tournament leading 65 was probably the last thing on his mind.
But the winner of the 2002 PGA Championship at Wentworth Club achieved just that after a sparkling round which featured five birdies, only one dropped shot, and a stirring eagle three at the 569 yard second where a fine three wood second finished a mere ten feet from the pin.
“It was pretty good considering I hadn’t played the course and didn’t really know where to go,” he said. “There were a few shots where I was a bit uncertain and you have to trust your caddie but all in all, I got away with it.
“I putted pretty well today too which was a huge benefit but the greens are in great shape and the course as a whole is magnificent. On Tuesday I felt like I was swinging the club good and striking it nicely so I felt confident. All I need to do now is get the neck okay and I’ll be fine.
“I didn’t do anything to it, I just woke up on Wednesday and I could hardly move my head. I’ve had no previous problems, I guess I must have slept awkwardly on it or something. It still isn’t good and I am still struggling with a bad headache because it is pounding up in my head.
“I think it is just a stiff muscle or something. This cold wind doesn’t help, but I hope it gets a bit better tomorrow. I saw the physios and they did some work on my back and my neck and they iced it, so we will see what happens.”
Joint leader Cévaër showed some of the form which saw him have a good spring on The European Tour International Schedule, form which has dipped off in the heart of the season.
“I must admit that it hasn’t happened for me during the summer, during the swing of all the big tournaments,” he said. “I wasn’t necessarily playing badly, I just missed by one at the British Masters, missed by one at Wentworth, and probably maybe missed by one in a few other tournaments. But I am not going to analyse anything. At this game you keep plugging away.
“Look at Marc Warren last week, he has been struggling all year and then, bang, he comes with a win to move from something like 130 to the top 50. So I am not going to analyse too much. I am not saying I am happy with it, it has been frustrating, but I will keep plugging away and hopefully the reward is just around the corner.”
Certainly if the Frenchman – winner of the 2004 Canarias Open de España – continues with his excellent form on the greens, he will get his rewards, rolling in six birdies putts in his 65 from distances ranging from one foot to 20.
Another man sensing a return to form was Brier although his dip was understandable, considering the celebrations he undertook in the two weeks immediately after his memorable maiden triumph in his homeland in June’s BA-CA Golf Open, presented by Telekom Austria.
“It was quite busy the first week off but now it is okay again,” he said. “My goals have been reset a little bit since then and hopefully I can have a good week this week to help me get into the Volvo Masters at the end of the year.”
In total, Brier rattled in six birdies in his round, the highlight coming at his last hole of the day, the 418 yard ninth which, playing into the teeth of the wind, he conquered with a majestic five iron to six feet and a tricky downhill birdie putt. All more than made up for his only dropped shot of the day which came when he missed the green at the 12th.
Alongside Brier, Rock lived up to his name with a solid performance which featured five birdies and no dropped shots which gave him hope that this week would be the one he needed to finally secure his playing privileges for the 2007 season.
“I thought I might have got close to securing my card after the Open and then I had a good three rounds in Germany and thought that was going to do it and I had a bad last round,” he said.
“So at this point I am still on the mark as to whether it is going to be good enough or not so I still need another good week to be sure. This is a nice start but I did that a couple of weeks ago so there is no great hopes as yet. I’ll just try to get round the next three days without any major disasters.”
Four players share fifth place after opening with 67s, Gregory Bourdy, Alejandro Canizares, Simon Dyson and Raymond Russell with the most impressive performance of the quartet coming from Frenchman Bourdy who recovered from an outward half of 38 with six birdies on the inward half to be back in 29.