Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson is leading the way on day one of the Open de España after setting a new course record at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla.
Erlandsson, who also holds the course record at The Belfry after shooting a 63 at last year’s Quinn Direct British Masters, birdied his last three holes en route to a flawless seven under par 65 at the José Maria Olazábal-designed course in Seville, Spain.
The 34 year old, whose only previous European Tour victory came on Spanish soil at the 2003 Izki Challenge de España on the Challenge Tour, leads by one shot from home favourites Jordi Garcia and Ignacio Garrido, who both shot rounds of 66.
Garrido opened with three consecutive birdies, whilst the highlight of Garcia’s round was an eagle three at the 13th hole.
The pair are one shot clear of England’s Gary Clark, who came into the tournament in good form after a top ten finish at last week’s AGF-Allianz Open Côtes d’Armor Breatagne on the European Challenge Tour.
In turn, Clark is one ahead of a quartet of players: Denmark’s Søren Hansen, Sweden’s Henrik Nyström, Spain’s Carlos Rodiles, and Peter Whiteford of Scotland.
Whiteford, who considered seeking alternative means of employment before earning his card via last year’s Challenge Tour, played in the same group as the leader Erlandsson.
The Swede said: “I’m always working hard and just trying to develop my game, week by week and year by year. I’ve made a good start here, but I’m not going to get carried away.
“It’s a fantastic course. The rough is brutal so you need to find the fairways off the tee, and some of the pin positions are quite tricky. But it’s a lot of fun to play.
“Tomorrow’s a fresh day, but I just have to keep playing the same way. That’s easy to say - it’s not so easy to do. But I enjoyed today and it was good to play with Peter, because we both kept each other going.”
For his part, Whiteford spoke of his relief at having made it onto The European Tour after spending four years on the Challenge Tour.
He said: “I’m loving every minute of my time on the Tour – it’s a great way to make a living. I had some tough times, but I got through them. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season now, and hopefully I can play well enough to keep my card.”
Whiteford’s fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie, fresh from his recent wedding, is also in contention after carding a two under par round of 70.
Montgomerie said: “My job now is to make The Ryder Cup team, and in order to do that I’ve probably got to win two of my next nine events. So I need another good score tomorrow to give myself a chance over the weekend.
“The likes of Vijay Singh have won numerous times in their 40s. I know I’m still capable of winning. But it’s no use saying it – I’ve got to go out and prove it.”
One shot ahead of Montgomerie is fellow veteran and former Ryder Cup player Peter Baker of England, who is showing signs of a welcome return to form after reviving his career on last year’s Challenge Tour.
Alongside Baker on three under par is Spain’s Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, who stormed into an early lead with five birdies and an eagle on the front nine. But four bogeys in his final five holes saw the Spaniard drop back into a tie for 11th place.
Another player to struggle on the back nine was Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who was unable to reproduce the form of last week, when he captured the BMW Asian Open. Instead, Clarke had to be content with a level par round of 72.
He said: “Last week probably has taken mentally more off me than I thought, and I have been making one mistake after the other. I did not have much sleep last night, but I hope to sleep well tonight. This is another week, another tournament, and everything starts again. My game is fine, but my head is tired and I have made some poor decisions.”
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