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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Mark Foster  (Getty Images)
Mark Foster (Getty Images)
Sixteen years after his unbeaten part in sending Tiger Woods to Walker Cup defeat, England's Mark Foster is hoping to seal a return to team golf in real style this weekend.

The 36-year-old from Worksop - a town best known in the sport as Lee Westwood's home - took the first day lead in the fog-delayed Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles with a six under par 66.

Although his only European Tour victory remains eight years ago, Foster's season is shaping up to be easily his best yet.

He is on course to earn a place in Britain and Ireland's Seve Trophy side for the first time and says of next month's match against Continental Europe in Paris: "I've been trying hard all year to make it and if it comes around it will be a massive thing for me."

Not even a problem with wasps and bees could prevent Foster from making a flying start and establishing a one-stroke advantage over Spaniard Ignacio Garrido and Argentina's Tano Goya, who were joined by Magnus A Carlsson of Sweden, who was up with the larks on Friday to complete a fine 67..

While Ryder Cupper Ross Fisher crashed to five over as he was affected by them - he then hit back to finish with a 71 - his fellow Englishman carried on regardless and turned in a brilliant 30, no fewer than ten shots better.

"I remember having to make a birdie putt with a wasp on the ball," he said.

"It's going to come off when you hit it and I just felt in a good place, so I hit the putt."

The former English amateur champion, who was back playing with his Walker Cup partner David Howell, had two more birdies on the front nine, but there were two bogeys as well and that kept his lead over Garrido and Goya down to a single stroke.

Peter Lawrie, Felipe Aguilar and Thomas Björn were a shot further back on four under, with 14 players grouped together on three under, including a number still yet to complete their first rounds.

Foster's round came after he warmed up no fewer than three times because of the morning fog.

"I wanted to get loose and be ready to go, so it was a good sacrifice to do it," he explained.

Foster had chances to win both the BMW International and French Open this summer, but after leading with a round to go both times had to be content with finishing third one week and then joint runner-up the next.

Neither affected him as badly as last year's Open de España, however, when he was three clear and then lost by one after missing three-foot putts on the 16th and 18th.

"I learned a lot from that," he said. "I would say I lost that tournament through nerves really, just not controlling myself.

"But I think it took that week for me to be able to play the way I've been playing at the moment, where I have more belief in myself and know I can do it.

"I think I'm a better person and a better player."

Goya, who carded six birdies along with a solitary bogey, took heart from his impressive performance today.

"I've been working a lot, and I think things are starting to go together,” said the Argentinian. “The year is long and I still have a lot of tournaments to play and hopefully I can get in The Race to Dubai. That's my goal this year.”

Veteran Garrido, meanwhile, was also happy to be in contention on five under, having excelled in tricky conditions.

“I think anything under par around here is a good score,” said the 39-year-old. “Today the course is playing long, with all of the rain, the ball was running nothing, so it was quite long.

“I think the key was that I played very solid, just hit most of the fairways, most of the greens, and took my chances. I never really got in trouble and that's probably what is the main thing to do here.”

Play did not begin until 10.10am - 160 minutes later than planned - and it meant the first round spilled into a second day.

Among the later starters who completed their rounds on Friday morning were Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, Ryder Cup Captains past and present, who shot 70 and 75 respectively.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BJÖRN, ThomasDEN18-11
T2COETZEE, GeorgeRSA18-11
T2LARRAZÁBAL, PabloESP18-11
T2WIESBERGER, BerndAUT18-11
T2FOSTER, MarkENG18-11
T6SJÖHOLM, JoelSWE18-10
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