Thursday, 01 July 2010
Robert-Jan Derksen  (Getty Images)
Robert-Jan Derksen (Getty Images)

Robert Jan-Derksen carded an eight under par 63 to lead the Alstom Open de France by three shots after the opening round.

And 11 years on from the week - indeed the hole - which wrote him into golf history, Jean Van de Velde began just his second event of the year with a five under par 66 to be in a share for second place.

If he now goes on to win the title on Sunday, 44 year old Van de Velde, no longer a European Tour card holder, will be playing in The Open Championship at St Andrews in two weeks rather than commentating on it.

But, as the World Number 1,175 confesses, that is a big "if."

With Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter both being passed fit to play following their leg problems - they shot 70 and 72 respectively - Van de Velde will have to beat five of the world's top 11.

The fifth of those is German Martin Kaymer and the defending champion also began with a 66, as did Spain’s Alejandro Cañizares who completed a three-way tie for second on five under.

But in the last group of the day former Dubai Desert Classic winner Derksen charged through the back nine in a five under 30 and picked up further shots on the first, sixth and long closing ninth.

“It was great, starting out it's never too easy,” said the Dutchman. “I birdied 11 and made a very good par on 13, that was important, and birdied most of the holes coming in. Difficult holes, but played them very well. 

“I hit fairways and hit them very close. I hit it to about a foot on the far side, 14, and I hit it about five foot on 15, four foot on 16, and 18 probably 15 feet or something. Then the rest of the round, I picked up another few on my back nine. Didn't make any mistakes and played good, gave myself chances and made a few putts.

“I've been playing really good actually. At the start it was very difficult - I didn't have the confidence and now I do have the confidence. If I can keep this up I can definitely be in contention.”

Van de Velde, who needed a sponsor's invitation to be part of the field, added: "I have no expectations whatsoever, even now. Especially now.

"But we will see - you never know with a Frenchman."

He proved that at Carnoustie, of course. Three ahead standing on the final tee Van de Velde suffered perhaps the most famous triple bogey ever and then lost the play-off to Paul Lawrie.

This event has also given him his heartache. He tied with compatriot Jean-Francois Remesy five years ago after once more finding water on the last again and then did it again when they went into sudden death.

"There are two tournaments I would like to play all my life if I could - the French Open and the British Open. I have a few scars and some have not healed, but those are the two that have a special place."

Westwood and Poulter both dropped two late shots, but were relieved to be playing after they were forced to sit out the eve-of-tournament pro-am.

"It's a bit sore and stiff and I think I have an injury in there somewhere," he said. "I think it wants rest and I have a couple of weeks after The Open when I can put my feet up."

Poulter had suffered a reaction to an insect bite on his shin and was given anti-biotics.

After three-putting the 16th and 18th he commented: "I got round all right, but it's been itching the whole day and driving me crazy."


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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1JIMÉNEZ, Miguel AngelESP18-11
T2MOLINARI, FrancescoITA18-11
T2CAÑIZARES, AlejandroESP18-11
4MCILROY, RoryNIR18-10
5WILLETT, DannyENG18-8
T6WILSON, OliverENG18-7
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