Pablo Larrazabal compiled a brilliant opening score of six under par 65 to take the first round lead at the Open de France ALSTOM as he continued his colourful golfing journey that started on a fish farm and could well end in French Open glory.
The young Spaniard leads England’s Oliver Fisher and Irishman Peter Lawrie by a stroke at the top of the first round leaderboard, with the 2007 US Open Champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina just two off the pace on four under after an opening 67.
Defending champion Graeme Storm made a quietly effective start to his title defence to join Bank Austria Golf Open presented by Telekom champion Jeev Milkha Singh and another ten players on three under, while Graeme McDowell, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood are among the11 men on two under.
Those star names will surely play a significant role as the tournament evolves over the next three days, but the first round belonged to Larrazabal, one of The European Tour’s most engaging personalities.
The 25 year old from Barcelona, like his elder brother and former British Amateur champion Alejandro, has always possessed a prodigious talent for golf, but before he turned professional in pursuit of fame and fortune, he was instructed by his father to work on the family fish farm in order to learn the value of money and a hard days labour.
“I worked there for seven months and it was really hard work,” said Larrazabal, who qualified for the Open de France ALSTOM by winning the pre-qualifying tournament at Chantilly last week.
“First of all I had to wake up at 5:30 in the morning because the fish wake up at 7:00 and I had to be there when the fish wake up. My life there was tough. I was there from 7:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon. Then I would have a quick lunch and go to practice and then I would go and have my driving lessons in the evening. It was a lot of hard days for seven months!
“My dad wanted me to see how normal people work for a living, so before I turned pro he wanted me to experience all of that and I am glad that I did it.
“I played good today – I had that one bogey on the ninth, which was my last hole of the day but I am happy with the score. That is probably the best round that I have had this year and I am starting to get used to life on The European Tour.”
Another man getting used to life on Tour is the 19 year old Fisher, while Lawrie is hoping to get used to that winning feeling after his maiden European Tour win at the Open de Andalucia earlier in the season.
The two men currently occupying second spot in the leaderboard could not have had more similarly contrasting rounds. Fisher pencilled nine threes on to his scorecard and Lawrie racked up an unbelievable ten, but Fisher’s card was bogey-free while Lawrie treated the French crowds to a true rollercoaster round that contained ten birdies, four pars, a single and a double bogey.
Contrasting they may have been, but they added up to the same number: one behind Larrazabal after the first round and two satisfied customers.
“I just played nicely all day,” said Fisher. “I have been putting a lot of hard work over the last few weeks. Last week I played nicely – I shot 71-70-71-71 last week so it was consistent – and today I just went out there and did what I normally do and made a few putts on the par fours. It was a solid round.
“I think my near-miss in Spain was a great confidence boost for me. To be paired with Lee Westwood in the last two rounds and to outplay him by a couple of shots was good in itself.
“Obviously I lost in the play-off but that was really the first time that I have been in contention. We all know that I have had a good amateur career and won amateur titles but it’s a matter of improving and competing with the best guys in Europe now and I am improving and getting more experience every week.”
Lawrie, when asked what he was thinking after making a double bogey six on the first hole, responded: “You stupid so and so! I just got too greedy with a seven iron. I had the perfect yardage and just tried to draw it in there and overdid it.
“But I made a birdie on the second and had a good run in the middle of the round with four birdies in a row and then was unfortunate to make a six in the ninth. I just missed the second shot in the rough in the right hands side and got a flier of over the green and didn’t get up and down.
“But after that I knuckled down and holed a few putts coming in. I hit a poor shot on the 16th. I had a perfect yardage for a six iron from left to right and overdid it and put it in the water.
“I am usually a calm and collected par-par-par man who throws a birdie in here and there, but it is one of those courses – if you start making mistakes then you can make a lot of mistakes. If you start making birdies you can make a lot of birdies.”