The Scottish duo of Gordon Brand Jnr and Sam Torrance were joined at the top of the leaderboard by Spaniard José Rivero and Japan’s Katsuyoshi Tomori on the first day of the Van Lanschot Senior Open.
The quartet all signed for rounds of 69 at the magnificent Royal Haagsche Golf and Country Club in The Hague, the Netherlands, to set the pace on three under par at the €250,000 European Senior Tour event.
Of the four men, it was perhaps Brand Jnr who was left to rue a missed opportunity, having incurred a two-shot penalty on the 16th hole after playing his ball from the 17th green.
But the Scot rallied in impressive style, rolling in a birdie putt from six feet on the 18th green to banish the disappointment of his “moment of madness”.
He said: “I was penalised through my own error. But other than that I played very well, especially on the front nine. I started off the back nine well too, but just made an error of judgement, thinking the 17th green was part of the course, and incurred a two-shot penalty. I’ve played shots off other greens at St Andrews many times, so I obviously thought I was there!
“It was a stupid mistake to make but there’s not a lot I can do about it now, so I just have to accept it and move on. It looks like an up and down back nine, but without the penalty it would’ve been a par and I’d be five under for the day. So it’s a little annoying, but to be fair I did well to recover and finish with a birdie. If you take the double bogey away, it was a very good day because it was quite tricky in the wind at times, and the undulating greens were also quite tricky to read. So a 69 was a good score – although 67 would’ve been much better!”
His compatriot Torrance also defied the blustery conditions with a measured display over the Harry Colt layout, which has hosted the KLM Open in the past.
The highlight of Torrance’s day came at the sixth, where he hit a six iron to four feet and rolled in the putt to record one of only four birdies all day on the toughest hole on the course.
The former Ryder Cup-winning Captain also made gains at the first, third, fifth and 12th holes, but gave two shots back on the fourth and 11th.
Having seen his friend and fellow John Jacobs Trophy winner Ian Woosnam return to winning ways at last week’s Berenberg Bank Masters, Torrance is keen to capture his first title of the 2011 Senior Tour season.
He said: “I was just consistent all day really. I got off to a good start with two birdies in my first three holes and after that I played very nicely, without really holing a lot of long putts – but I also didn’t miss many short ones either. It was just a very solid day, and a great way to start the tournament.
“It was very tough in the wind. Seaside links courses are always tough when the wind’s blowing, and this course is no different. It’s tough to find the greens, and then when you miss the green it’s just as tough to get up and down. So I’ve got to be very happy with a 69, because it wasn’t easy out there at all today. Hopefully the wind will die down a little over the next two days, and scoring becomes a bit easier.”
Tomori’s birdies came in two bursts, with gains at the 12th and 13th holes followed by four in a row from the 16th.
That moved the 56 year old from Japan to five under par and into a clear lead, but bogeys at the tough sixth and the eighth hole saw him drop back into a tie for the lead.
Tomori said: “My putting from close range was very good today – especially on the front nine, where I hardly missed anything from inside six feet. On the back nine I didn’t play quite so well, but overall it was still a good day.”
The same applies to Spaniard José Rivero, who notched a brace of birdies on both nines, with a bogey at the fourth hole the only blemish in an otherwise flawless display.
Rivero said: “I played very well today, because it’s not easy in the wind. My putting today was solid, with one long par putt on the 14th hole. But other than that, I was hitting my approach shots pretty close. The course is very nice and it’s in great condition, so I’m looking forward to the next two days. It was a lot of fun to play in the Pro-Am format, so hopefully we can keep it going for the rest of the tournament now.”
American Doug Johnson notched two birdies on the front nine and added another after the turn to finish on two under par alongside the Australian duo of Peter Fowler and Mike Harwood, England’s David J Russell and Spaniard Manuel Moreno.
The highlight of Russell’s round was an eagle three at the first hole, although he promptly undid all his hard work with a double bogey at the next hole.
His compatriot George Ryall’s title defence got off to a testing start, as his troublesome back injury hampered him in a round of 74.
The star attraction amongst the amateurs competing alongside the professionals was former Dutch international footballer Marco van Basten, who bettered playing partner Costantino Rocca’s score on six holes to play his part in a net score of 68.