Thursday, 25 April 2019
Jordan Smith  (Getty Images)
Jordan Smith (Getty Images)

Jordan Smith is eager to turn his consistent play into a second European Tour victory after firing a brilliant 66 to take the first round lead at the Trophée Hassan II.

The Englishman arrived at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam refreshed after a break which followed his first top ten of the season at the Maybank Championship in March.

Before that he had made six cuts out of six and seven birdies on the par 73 layout in Rabat moved him to seven under and gave the 26-year-old a one shot lead over 2014 champion Alejandro Cañizares and American Sean Crocker.

The 2016 European Challenge Tour Rankings winner claimed the Porsche European Open title the following season and, after two very consistent campaigns produced top 50 finishes on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex, Smith feels he is ready to win again.

"I think you always take as a positive making the cut," he said. "But for me I want to finish as high as possible and I want to get those top tens, top fives and those wins under my belt."

He added: "I hit a lot of iron shots close, I think that was key for me today. I rolled it really nicely, that's probably the best I've putted for a long time. I scrambled when I needed to, when I missed a green, I chipped on and holed the putt.

"It was all about momentum for me today."

Cañizares claimed his second European Tour title at Golf du Palais Royal five years ago and is enjoying a renaissance after winning the Qualifying School to regain his card last season.

Challenge Tour graduate Crocker is playing just his 25th European Tour event this week and made an eagle and four birdies.

Scot Stephen Gallacher and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon were at five under.

Cañizares birdied his opening hole and then made five pars before gains on the 16th and 17th saw him jump out into a two shot lead.

He moved to four under with a gain on the first but Smith was stalking and birdies on the 14th, 15th and 17th had him within one.

Pavon had given back an opening birdie on the third but made gains on the eighth, ninth, 13th and 15th to join the lead, and Smith made it a three way tie from ten feet at the third.

He was not there for long, however, as Cañizares saw an 18 foot left to righter drop on the sixth after making a putt of similar length to save par on the fifth.

A 20 footer on the fourth saw Smith join the lead and Pavon holed from 18 feet at the last to set the target and make it a three way tie again.

Cañizares had a golden opportunity on the seventh as he hit the pin after getting a flier lie but could not make the birdie putt, and Smith edged ahead from five feet at the sixth.

A wonderful tee shot into the par three ninth came down the slope to leave Cañizares three feet for a share of the lead but Smith left himself a tap-in on the seventh and he set the morning target.

Crocker was the best of the afternoon starters and after eagling the 12th, he added birdies on the 16th, 18th, fifth and eighth.

Gallacher was level par after 15 holes but picked up five shots in his last three with the help of just the second albatross of the season.

The Hero Indian Open champion birdied the seventh and then holed his second with a three iron at the par five next, matching the feat of Terry Pilkadaris at the ISPS Handa Vic Open.

A closing birdie then meant he made an excellent start in search of back to back wins.

Italy's Edoardo Molinari - winner here in 2017 - was at four under, a shot clear of Spain's Pablo Larrazábal, Australian Dimitrios Papadatos, Norwegian Kristoffer Reitan, Austrian Matthias Schwab and English pair Jack Senior and Lee Slattery.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T2SURI, JulianUSA18-7
5LIPSKY, DavidUSA18-5
T6KAWAMURA, MasahiroJPN18-4

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