There is a distinctly Welsh feel to the first round leaderboard at the Omega European Masters, but an Australian and a Northern Irishman are trying hard to crash the party.
Brett Rumford, last year’s winner in a sudden death play-off, has stormed to four under par through just nine holes to sit one shot off the clubhouse lead set by Wales’ Garry Houston and Kyron Sullivan.
The 31 year old’s title defence could not have gotten off to a better start as he collected birdies at each of the first three holes. A run of two pars then followed, but a birdie at the par four sixth and three further pars has taken him to the turn in 32.
Playing on the back nine, Rory McIlroy has made equally light work of the stunning setting. He bogeyed the 12th, but birdies at the tenth, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th have put him in the frame.
Earlier, Houston boosted his hopes of keeping his European Tour card with a superb 66.
The 37 year old is 132nd on the European Order of Merit, with only the top 115 keeping their cards at the end of the season. It has left him hoping for a repeat of his showing here three years ago.
Back in 2005 he came to the same course lying 126th on the money list, but began with a 65 and ended the week joint fourth.
The early signs of a repeat are good. Two opening birdies were followed by a bogey on the 506 yard par four fourth, but he then then birdied two of the next three and after dropping another shot at the tenth came straight back with yet another birdie.
Birdies followed at the 15th and 18th to leave him level with Sullivan. It could have been better for Houston, but he narrowly missed a hole-in-one at the third. He said: “It landed an inch short of the hole and almost bullied its way in underground, but then came out of its pitch mark and went to the back of the green."
He added: “It was a good start. I like it up here and have a history up here. It was important to get off to a good start which I did. Few bits of rain were a bit uncomfortable. I have been playing okay lately and just needed a couple of putts to go in and they did.”
Sullivan, meanwhile, had a more straightforward day in his flawless 66. He collected a stroke at the third and another at the seventh to reach the turn in 34, before shooting further birdies at the tenth, 12th and 15th holes.
He said: “It's nice to see Garry up there although I would like to be a shot ahead of him. Sure he would say the same.
“I played lovely today and hit a couple of good wedges around the turn, stiffed it on the tenth and close again on the 12th and just didn't make any mistakes which is what has been costing me. I have been making a few mistakes and getting down on myself but it was a good round today and hopefully I can continue to the weekend.”
Tied for third in the clubhouse on four under are Emanuele Canonica, Ross McGowan, François Delamontagne, Mikko Ilonen and Raphael Eyraud.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, returning from a three-week break, is three under par after nine holes.
|T3||JIMÉNEZ, Miguel Angel||ESP||18||-12|