A spectacular last hole eagle helped José-Filipe Lima enjoy not only a reversal of recent fortune, but also a share of the first round lead in the BMW International Open with Raphaël Jacquelin.
The 25 year old Portugese player has missed the last six cuts on The European Tour to find himself languishing at 216th on the Order of Merit and when he began with a bogey five at Golfclub München Eichenried, he could have been forgiven for thinking his disappointing run was about to continue.
But nothing could have been further from the truth as, after that, the winner of the 2004 Aa St Omer Open was flawless, carding four birdies and an eagle three at the sixth to go along with his one at the 18th to finish the day on seven under par 65.
It gave Lima and Jacquelin a one shot lead over Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, looking for his second victory of the season after his win in the Telecom Italia Open, surprise packet of the opening day, Frenchman Marc Farry and England’s Paul Broadhurst, while World Number Five Ernie Els and Niclas Fasth, fourth in last week’s US Open Championship lurked menacingly on five under par after respective opening 67s.
“I hit a very bad drive on the first hole but in a funny way I think that help relax me a little bit because I was a little stressed after the way I have been playing,” said Lima.
“I changed some things on my swing and I started the year very badly, missing a lot of cuts – a good round today is very good for me and my confidence. Obviously there is a long way to go until Sunday but I will try to keep playing like that.”
Highlight of the front nine was his eagle three at the 481 yard sixth hole where a five iron second shot was followed by a successful 12 foot putt. But he bettered that at the 18th to finish in style with a superb drive and a six iron second shot on the 568 yard hole to within six feet of the pin where his putter again did the needful.
Joint leader Jacquelin continued to show his love for the tournament as well as the sponsor.
In 2001 the Frenchman won a car for holing in one at the 17th and in 2003 he carded a ten under par at Golfclub München Eichenried to enjoy a share of the course record. Of course this April, too, he also won the BMW Asian Open in Shanghai.
“Although I do enjoy the course and coming here, it is getting more difficult every year,” he said. “But if you put the ball in the fairway you will have chances and I managed to do that. Of course I also love coming to the BMW tournaments – you could say that I am a BMW man.”
Leading the chase of the two leaders was 47 year old Farry who won this title in 1996 when the tournament was reduced to 36 holes because of inclement weather but who has spent the last two years in the virtual golfing wilderness after suffering badly from tendonitis in both elbows.
Knowing he would play in this event as a past champion, Farry, who lost his European Tour playing privileges at the end of the 2003 season, entered last week’s Open de Saint Omer and although he missed the cut through a lack of confidence on the greens, he saw enough in his game to approach this week with some confidence.
“Apart from my putting last week I prepared myself well for this week,” he said. “I changed putter yesterday as well and that seemed to work as I had a pretty good round in the pro-am here too.
“I’m not a millionaire, I need the money like anyone else but I would say my main concern is that I miss the Tour and the people on it. It is like a big family and one I have been part of for many years. But I would say now my main goal is to prepare for the Seniors Tour because I’ll be 48 next month.”
Like Lima, Farry had only one dropped shot on his card but more than made up for that with seven birdies elsewhere including a fine start to his round of four birdies in the first six holes.
Joining the Frenchman in a share of third place was Fernandez-Castaño who had a day on the sleek and smooth putting surfaces at Golfclub München Eichenried that all professionals dream about. In total the Spaniard had eight birdies but felt like he would knock in every putt he stood over.
“I holed absolutely everything out there and for a while I even felt sorry for my playing partners because everything was going into the hole, it didn’t matter the distance or the break,” he said. “It was just one of those days and I really hope I can have three more like that.
“The greens are wonderful here and the thing about them is that I seem to find them very easy to read. Maybe it is the fact that I took two weeks off to rest and recharge my batteries that I have come back refreshed and I can see all the lines!”
Late in the day, Broadhurst joined the Frenchman and the Spaniard in a tie for third place, an eagle three at the sixth hole being the highlight of the Englishman’s day.
While the leading quintet did well, the name all eyes gravitated towards on the leaderboards was Els who also eagled the 18th – his ninth hole of the day – on the way to a 67.
“That was a decent start to my tournament,” he said. “We had beautiful weather conditions in the morning apart from towards the end (when play was suspended for 45 minutes due to thunder and lightning in the area).
“I think I only hit one bad drive all day on the 15th (where he dropped his only shot of the day) but apart from that I was pretty solid and for the rest of the day I kept it in play, hit a lot of greens and made a putt here and there. It was a nice, enjoyable round, especially coming from last week.”