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Thursday, 07 September 2006

The English Trio of David Carter, Robert Coles, Anthony Wall lead the Omega European Masters after opening rounds of 66, five under par, after a glorious day in the Swiss Alps saw record crowds flock to Crans Montana.

Many of the record 9,500 spectators at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, of course, came to see teenage prodigy Michelle Wie as she became the first woman to compete in a full European Tour event but the 16 year old struggled to an opening 78, seven over par, and a distant 12 shots off the lead.

The leaderboard was dominated by Englishmen with the leading trio ably supported by another three in Simon Khan, Sam Little and Miles Tunnicliff with Argentina’s Rafael Gomez breaking the stranglehold by joining them on four under par 67.

Sergio Garica launched his defence of the Omega European Masters title with a three under par 68 which could have been three shots better but for missed birdie opportunities on three of has last four holes.

"It was a good round," said the Ryder Cup player. "The golf course is playing tough. The round could definitely have been a couple of shots better although made a couple of nice par putts on the 18th and second. But then I missed a couple of short ones coming in. But 68, as difficult as the course is playing is a pretty decent round. "

For Coles it was a welcome return to form after a dismal season in which he has slumped to 183rd on The European Tour Order of Merit.

“I didn’t know that many people played,” he joked. "I have struggled. The first round scores have been appalling. I have not got off to any sort of starts and to get off to a decent start today and get into a tournament is great so I am delighted."

Wall is trying to improve on his 16th place on The Order of Merit to help his Major Championship causes for next season. The top 15 earn a place in The Open and The US Open. A bogey on the last, when he three-putted, held Wall back.

"I felt good out there today," he said. "I drove the ball well. Holed a couple of putts on the 12th and 13th and from there it was a good day’s work.

"I want to win this year," he added. "It makes things easier for next year and I also want to get in the top 15 to get in the Majors. That is a big thing for me and if not then top 20 as that still gets me in The Open."

Carter was a doubt earlier in the week after struggling with a bad back, but after extensive physio treatment Carter managed to make it to the first tee. For four holes he was spraying it all over the place but he steadied the ship before a purple patch from the 13th, which saw him pick up three birdies and an eagle in four holes, catapulted him into the lead.

“I didn’t realise I had a putt for 29 on the last,” said Carter. “When you are playing well you don’t really think about it, just keep going. I have only done that once. I hit good shots and holed some good putts. It is lovely to be in a share of the lead as I was not sure I was going to play.”

Wie will need something special if she is to have a chance of making the cut tomorrow after a testing day.

Her biggest problems at the Crans-sur-Sierre mountainside course came at the five par-threes, for which she was five over par. Wie said: "I think it was very difficult after some time off, go back home, start school again for a week and come back and play a tournament.

"I was very stressed at school, I had to bring all my work here with me, while I'm trying to get my game back in shape.

"And the par-threes ate me alive today.

"But now I have one round under my belt I know exactly what to do tomorrow. Now I have something of a feel for the game, tomorrow will be a better day.”

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