A hole-in-one helped Grégory Havret claim the first round lead at the Omega European Masters on a record-equalling day in Crans.
The Frenchman aced the 13th, and when Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey emulated the feat on the third it took the tally on this season’s Race to Dubai to 39, matching The European Tour record set in 2006.
Havret also eagled the driveable seventh at Crans-sur-Sierre, with four birdies and a single bogey giving him a seven under par 63 and one shot lead over Denmark’s Lasse Jensen.
For much of the afternoon it had looked like England’s Tyrrell Hatton would lead as he made his way to eight under, but finding water on the 18th led to a triple bogey seven and left him in a large group of players tied for third on five under.
This tournament is synonymous with three-time winner Seve Ballesteros, and Havret revealed another link when asked to talk about his hole-in-one, which won him an Omega Seasmaster Planet Ocean Co-Axial Chronograph in 18k red gold.
“It’s my second hole in one on the Tour, and there’s a funny story about my first,” said the three-time European Tour winner. “It was at the Seve Trophy in 2007, and Seve himself was on the tee. When the ball went in, he jumped into my arms and shouted ‘You’ve won a car!’ It was such a great moment, but then later that night he told me he’d made a mistake, and the car was only the prize on the final day. So that was a bit disappointing, but this beautiful prize definitely makes up for it.
It’s a little bit strange, for a few seconds you don’t know what to do because you can’t believe it.
Then when you hear everybody shouting and cheering by the green, you know it’s real and you start to go crazy yourself.
“After that happened, you couldn’t take the smile from off my face, because I knew that whatever happened for the rest of the round, I would have a very nice prize waiting for me. So I was very happy, and I play my best golf when I’m happy.
“[The seventh] is the most beautiful hole we play all season. It’s a drivable par four, so it’s very tempting but there’s out of bounds on the right and some bunkers on the left, so you need to hit a good drive and fortunately I managed to do that.”
Havret was runner-up to Graeme McDowell in the 2010 US Open, but has gone seven years since his last victory.
“It’s been a little while, because I haven’t been playing my best lately,” he added. “There’s still a long way to go of course, but it’s nice to be up in contention and I’m very happy with my start, so hopefully I can keep it going for the next three rounds now.”
Jensen only got into the field at the last minute, arriving on Wednesday evening and walking the course in near darkness as he was unable to fit in a practice round.
“I’d always prefer to play a practice round before any tournament, but as I had no choice I just had to make the most of it,” said the Qualifying School graduate, who is down at 182nd on The Race to Dubai.
“I was a bit shaky for the first few holes, but I’ve played pretty well the last month or two so once I settled down, I started to play some good golf.
“I knew the game was there, but I hadn’t expected to play this well. Because my category doesn’t get me into too many tournaments, I really have to make the most of my opportunities and I definitely did that today.”
Hatton was joined in third by compatriots Richard Bland, Seve Benson and Danny Willett – the latter having finished sixth in The Open Championship on Monday – Hoey, Australia’s Richard Green, Koreans Baek Seuk-hyun and Y E Yang, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, and Swedish trio Rikard Karlberg, Pelle Edberg and Marcus Kinhult.
Defending champion David Lipsky was a shot further back after a round of 66, while Ryder Cup team-mates Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood overcame shaky starts to card rounds of 69 and 68 respectively, although America’s Patrick Reed outdid his Gleneagles opponents with a 67.