(Reuters) - Martin Kaymer broke the Oceânico Victoria Golf Club's course record with a stunning 11 under par 61 to grab the first round lead in the inaugural Portugal Masters.
The 22 year old underlined his reputation as the next golfing superstar from Germany by cramming 11 birdies into his flawless effort, five in a row in his last five holes, in his first round to clip two shots off the previous record and cruise three clear of Argentine Daniel Vancsik and Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson, the last man out on the golf course on the opening day. It was also the joint best round of the season on The European Tour.
“I shot a 13 under par 59 in Hapsburg (in Germany) on the EPD Tour, a satellite tour below the European Challenge Tour, last year when I had just turned pro," he said. "That was the round of my life but that was a very easy course though."
Kaymer, twice a winner on the 2006 Challenge Tour, is in his first season on the main circuit and his exploits have made him favourite for the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.
He shared the lead going into the final round of The Celtic Manor Wales Open in June and was also in front playing the last hole of the Scandinavian Masters in Stockholm in August but on both occasions he saw his maiden victory elude him.
"I've been waiting for this round to come," said Kaymer. "It's just my putting has been so-so. I'm really confident I have learned a lot from my near-misses, especially Sweden, where I just played a bad shot at the wrong hole."
Vancsik, winner of the Madeira Islands Open BPI in March, also endured a near-miss in last week's Open de Madrid Valle Romano.
The Argentine led in Spain for the first three rounds before wrecking his victory chances with a nine at the fifth hole on the last day.
“I played really well last week but just lost my way on that one hole,” he said. “After it was finished I tried to forget about it and concentrate on playing well here this week and that is why this start is really good for me and I’m really happy with it.
“After last week I was tired but I spoke with my psychologist at the beginning of the week and I just tried to relax. I practiced a little bit on Monday and Tuesday but not too much and I wasn’t in the pro-am so I felt that my body was ready to go today and I think that showed.”
Another happy man was Erlandsson who, like Vancsik, only dropped one shot all day but posted nine birdies elsewhere – including four in a row from the second – in his excellent opening 64.
England’s Lee Westwood, looking for a third win of the season, shared fourth place on 65 with Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and twice former US Open Champion Retief Goosen.
Westwood, beginning his round at the tenth, started in spectacular fashion, firing a sand iron approach to within 18 inches of the hole for an opening birdie three.
In truth, the 34 year old never looked back from there and although he shed a shot at the 407 yard fourth after his drive found one of the few patches of severe rough on the Oceânico Victoria Golf Club course, he more than made up for that with five other birdies and an eagle three at the 589 yard 17th where he holed from 15 feet.
“It feels good and everything is coming together nicely,” he said. “I’ve driven the ball well again today – a couple of sloppy iron shots but nothing really to worry about. It is all coming together and I really do feel like I have some low scores in me at the moment.”
Alongside him, Goosen admitted he was pleased with his own start but a little surprised to look up at the large leader boards at the end of his round and find he was four off the lead!
“A 65 is pretty good – not as good as an 11 under round – but it is nice to get off to a good start,” he said. “Hopefully Martin doesn’t keep playing the way he has been playing so as to give us a chance to catch up! But it is nice to get off to get off to a good round and it gives you a feeling you have a chance going into the next few rounds.”
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