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Friday, 19 March 2010
(Reuters) - Swede Niclas Fasth continued his rich vein of form with a 65 at The K Club to lie one stroke off Dutchman Maarten Lafeber's early lead in the Smurfit Kappa European Open first round.

Officials cut par from 72 to 70 and reduced the formidable island green par five 18th to a par three after weeks of rain, so Lafeber's opening 64 left him six under par, a stroke better than Fasth, India's Jyoti Randhawa and Robert Rock of England.

Fasth has risen to fifth on The European Tour Order of Merit and 22nd on the World Rankings with his fourth placed finish at the US Open and victory last time out, in the BMW International Open.

He could move up to second on the money list and vault into the world's top 20 for the first time with an €593,580 first prize this week on the Smurfit Course.

The 35 year old from Gothenburg could also claim a place in the autumn HSBC World Matchplay Championship in the last event counting for Wentworth Club.

Fasth, though, prefers to stay oblivious to his position.

"I don't check it out and I don't know what my position is," he said. "If I play well then things will take care of themselves."

With bad weather continuing there were fears the course might become unplayable but Lafeber, who did not have a practice round after flying in late following his failure on Monday to qualify for The Open, made light of the conditions.

"The greens are fantastic and the only problem is if you stray off the fairways and then you're likely to lose your ball," Lafeber said.

Despite a double-bogey at his final hole for a round of 70, The European 2006 Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam made a happy return to The K Club, where his team were victorious at the adjacent Palmer course last September, for two reasons.

As well as memories of his team's record-equalling win over the United States, the 49 year old Welshman, tuning up for the Seniors Tour next year, was delighted to be playing after a lengthy lay-off with post-viral fatigue following an illness picked up in Asia. 

England's David Howell, off for ten weeks with back and wrist injuries, gave himself a clean bill of health after a 69.

US Open champion Angel Cabrera had an afternoon round.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MONTGOMERIE, ColinSCO18-11
2FASTH, NiclasSWE18-10
T3HAVRET, GrégoryFRA18-9
T3WALL, AnthonyENG18-9
T3EDBERG, PelleSWE18-9
T3HANSON, PeterSWE18-9
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