Scott Henry moved into a strong position to clinch a maiden European Tour title at the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI as a five under par opening round of 67 earned the Scotsman the clubhouse lead before play was suspended overnight due to fog.
The unpredictable weather and heavy fog had played havoc with the beginning of The European Tour’s 1,500th official event at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra, 700 metres above sea level on the picturesque Portuguese island of Madeira.
After play was abandoned on the opening day without a ball being struck, play finally got underway at 7:45am on Friday morning but only briefly as more fog moved in causing another suspension at 9:00am.
Round One eventually resumed at 12:45pm, giving Henry enough time to shoot out the blocks with four birdies in his opening five holes.
A bogey at the 17th hole, his eighth after teeing off at the tenth, stalled his progress but he bounced back with a birdie at the 18th followed by three more at the second, third and seventh.
That moved the 27 year old to seven under par but he struggled to back to back bogeys at the eighth and ninth, finishing two shots clear of Englishman Andrew Marshall, Pedro Oriol of Spain and former European Tour winner Martin Wiegele.
“I got off to a fast start which was nice,” said Henry, who won the Kazakhstan Open en route to graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2012. “Recently, in the few tournaments I've played, I haven’t done that so it was nice to start well.
“It was a tough day and I would have taken five under before I went out. It was strange - because it was so tough I didn’t expect to get to seven under like I did. I had a couple of tough holes to finish with and two bogeys in the last two was a bit frustrating.
“I'm really pleased though, I played well and I'm in the hunt for tomorrow. Hopefully we can get 36 more holes done. That’s going to be the biggest challenge.
“I'm quite happy just to be in the hunt. I feel like I'm playing good again so whatever happens tomorrow I'm looking forward to it. It would be amazing to win but we have a long way to go.”
Having waited in the clubhouse for a whole day on Thursday and several hours on Friday, the Glaswegian admitted it was tough to get going mentally when his tee time eventually came but found some solace in a particular local delicacy.
“It was certainly tough yesterday,” he said. “I was in the clubhouse for ten hours, from 7:00am, so it was long. I drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of Madeira cake - that was about it. I think the cake kept me going today!”
Wiegele, meanwhile, was delighted with his three under 69, having played in the final morning group, finishing his round soon before play was suspended due to fog at 8:00pm.
“I was very pleased with my day because the conditions were really tough,” said the Austrian, whose sole European Tour win came at the Saint Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC. “It was actually one of the best rounds I’ve ever managed to play in the wind.
“I hope that my practise since winter and my fitness work has paid off and I will try to carry on in this good form.
“It was probably as windy as in Lumine on the Challenge Tour a few weeks ago, where we had to stop playing because the balls were moving on the greens, but they are slower here and more sheltered.
“It was a really bad year for me last year but after having hip surgery almost two years ago I had to stop playing eight months and they say that if you stop playing for a long time, you need three times the amount of time to recover so if I can get back the way I was in 2011 already it would be awesome.”
An exciting local story was also unfolding at Santo da Serra as young Portuguese amateur Joao Carlota had a flying start to the tournament after teeing off in the afternoon groups.
He birdied the opening hole before carding an eagle at the par five third, followed by a birdie at the fourth, to move to four under through four holes, one shot off the lead, before being called in due to darkness.
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