Shaun Micheel (Getty Images)
A brilliant five under par 67 saw former US PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel move into a one shot lead after the opening round of the Reale Seguros Open de España.
The 43 year old American, who triumphed at Oak Hill nine years ago to become a Major Champion, carded eight birdies and three bogeys in more benign afternoon conditions at Reale Club de Golf de Sevilla.
That gave him a one shot lead over home favourite Jorge Campillo and the English pair of Robert Rock and Danny Willett, with their compatriot Matthew Baldwin alone in fifth on three under.
Italian Ryder Cup star Francesco Molinari was the best of the morning starters, who had to contend with strong winds and heavy rain, as he signed for a two under par 70, which was matched in the afternoon by his compatriot Matteo Manassero.
Micheel turned in 33, struck his approach at the 13th to three feet, holed a five footer at the 15th and two-putted the long 16th from 25 feet to reach six under par.
But he came unstuck at the last, finding sand from the tee, hitting his approach into another bunker and two-putting for bogey.
“I didn’t expect this,” said Micheel. “Yesterday in the the pro-am I didn't make any birdies, and it wasn't for lack of effort, I can assure you.
“I had a terrific start with four birdies on my first six holes. I think the key was I kept the ball in play, made a couple of nice putts, and I made all my short putts.
“My iron play was good and I just managed myself well and gave myself a lot of opportunities.
“Outside my bogey in the last, I’m extremely pleased. I made 8 birdies, it felt great, it really did. I’m ready to play tomorrow in the same conditions, I do enjoy playing in difficult conditions.”
Rock, conqueror of Tiger Woods and world top three Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood in Abu Dhabi in January, eagled the 13th and 16th on his return to action after more than a month off.
That break came after his failed attempt to climb into the Official World Golf Ranking's top 50 in time for the Masters Tournament, but it is the leading 60 who qualify for next month's US Open Championship and he is currently 60th.
Campillo, like Baldwin a graduate from The Challenge Tour last season, led the 30-strong home contingent on the 100th anniversary of the first staging of the tournament.
“I feel great playing this good,” he said. “The course is playing tough and I managed to make no bogeys, so I’m very happy with the way I played today.”
Big-hitting Alvaro Quiros, winner on the course two years ago, shot 73 and 48 year old Miguel Angel Jiménez, yet to win his national title, had a 75.
Molinari was pleased with his efforts in the worst of the weather.
“I’m very happy, it was as tough as it can get,” said the 29 year old. “The rough is just brutal, and the wind and rain make it hard to keep the ball on the fairway, but I played very well.
“This course should favour straight players like me, but when you show up on the first tee you never know what’s going to happen.
“My game was really good today, and hopefully it will be the same for the next three days and I’m sure I will have a chance to win this tournament on Sunday.”