It may have started 24 hours late, but when it got underway the Bank Austria GolfOpen presented by Telekom Austria exploded into life with Austria’s Martin Wiegele thundering into a share of the first round lead.
Wiegele’s brilliant opening round of seven under par 64 was matched by a further five players at the beautiful Fontana Golf Club on the outskirts of Vienna as the weather delayed first round finally got underway.
Australia’s Scott Barr, the Swedish duo of Pelle Edberg and Christian Nilsson, Ireland’s Gary Murphy and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh all matched Wiegele’s first round 64 but it was the 29 year old from Graz who ignited the crowd as he outscored his high profile playing partners Michael Campbell and David Howell at the stunning Fontana Golf Club.
Wiegele’s first round would have been even better had he not dropped two strokes in his closing three holes, but even those two aberrations could not dampen the Austrian’s mood after signing for that 64.
“I am very pleased with that,” said Wiegele. “To play well in Austria in front of such a great crowd and with players like Michael Campbell and David Howell makes that round one of the best of my career.
“That is up there with the 64 I shot at San Roque when I won the Qualifying School last year so I am very happy.”
Italy’s Emanuele Canonica, who, despite feeling unwell throughout the day, posted a six under 65 to join Australia’s Peter Fowler in a tie for seventh place, while a further six players recorded opening scores of five under 66 to pack the top of the leaderboard at Fontana.
Canonica put on a fine display in front of two VIP spectators in the form of Italian National Football Coach Roberto Donadoni and former Italian international, Gianfranco Zola, who are in Austria for the forthcoming Euro 2008 Championships.
With Austria co-hosting Euro 2008 along with neighbours Switzerland over the next month, there has been a football theme running throughout the country, which has reached the fairways of Fontana.
Austria play their first match of Euro 2008 against Croatia on Sunday evening, but one Austrian who doesn’t want to be at the match is Wiegele. The reason for that is simple: he wants to be at the Bank Austria GolfOpen prize ceremony receiving the winner’s trophy in front of a rapturous home crowd.
There is of course, a lot of golf to be played before that happens – 36 holes to be precise after European Tour Officials and tournament promoters Emotion decided to cut this year’s event to 54 holes due to the loss of the entire first day’s play on Thursday, coupled with a poor weekend weather forecast that could yet see Fontana hit by further lightning storms and heavy rain.
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