Anders Hansen (Getty Images)
Dane Anders Hansen birdied his final hole to grab the clubhouse lead from home favourite Romain Wattel midway through a testing first day at the Alstom Open de France.
The 42 year old used all his experience to card seven birdies and only two bogeys around Le Golf National, which gave glimpses of the excitement in store when the 2018 Ryder Cup is held at the venue.
Plenty of players found water on the demanding closing stretch, although Hansen’s only bogeys came at the first and eighth - the latter after leaving his chip ten feet short of the hole.
Those dropped shots sandwiched birdies from eight feet at the fifth and 30 feet on the sixth, after the three-time European Tour winner had gone out in 31.
“It is a tough course,” said Hansen, whose last European Tour victory came more than four years ago in South Africa. “The greens are pretty firm and it's tight out there. There's hardly any wind, and you see the scores aren't that great.
“I played actually really solid from tee to green - I think I only missed two or three greens. I putted quite well, so just sort of all came together. At some stage it seemed a bit easy, but this course gets your attention and next thing you know, you're making bogeys.
The 22 year old Wattel was able to limit the damage done by bogeys at the 15th and 16th with six birdies - a couple of them the result of monster putts - to lie one ahead of Chile’s Felipe Aguilar, Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, England’s Seve Benson and afternoon starters Stephen Gallacher and Graeme Storm - both of whom made impressive starts.
“You are in front of the French crowds, so you want to be good, you want to play great golf and so there is pressure on me,” said Wattel, who has already impressed this season with a third-place finish in Austria and fourth in Korea.
“I'm trying to play my best and just focus on the shot I have to play - that's the only thing I can do.”
Five of Europe's Team from last year's Miracle at Medinah are competing at the venue outside Paris which will stage the biennial contest in five years’ time, but Luke Donald and Ian Poulter were among the players who ran up big numbers on the daunting closing stretch.
Donald started with a birdie on the tenth, his opening hole, and was still one under par when he reached the 18th tee, only to run up a triple bogey seven on the 470 yard par four after finding a fairway bunker off the tee and then dumping his third shot into the water surrounding the green.
The former World Number One fared better on the front nine with birdies at the eighth and ninth completing a level par 71, but playing partner Poulter could only get back to two over after an outward half of 40.
Defending champion Marcel Siem covered the same stretch in 44 after an eight on the 13th and an eight on the 18th, the German covering the front nine in ten fewer shots but still signing for a 78.
Former US Open Champion Graeme McDowell, Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer and World Number Five Matt Kuchar were among the later starters.
As the afternoon session developed Hansen was joined by first Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and then another of the home contingent in Victor Dubuisson, who had two and six holes remaining respectively.