Slattery stars at Celtic Manor

5/31/2012 7:09:38 PM
Lee Slattery  (Getty Images)
Lee Slattery (Getty Images)
England's Lee Slattery followed one great performance with another at The Celtic Manor Resort to lead after the first round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open.

Three days after shooting 66 at Walton Heath to earn himself a US Open Championship debut, the 33 year old took a one shot advantage with a four under par 67.

And if that does not sound special consider this - there were more than a dozen scores in the eighties, one in the nineties and a handful of players could not keep a ten off their cards.

A stiff wind and fast-running conditions made life tough on the course where Europe beat America two years ago in a Ryder Cup remembered for its thrilling finish.

Slattery's round was not without its scary moments. He was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580 yard ninth.

The hole still cost him his only dropped shot, but he said: "It was very difficult. The wind was stronger than anticipated and if you get round without a bogey it's an amazing achievement." Nobody did.

Slattery had already made eight trips to The European Tour Qualifying School by then, but his career turned around last October when, on his 183rd start, he captured the Bankia Madrid Masters - even with a double bogey seven on the final hole.

Now he is planning for a trip to San Francisco for the US Open, which will include not only his first tournament in the States, but also a visit to Alcatraz and possibly the baseball game at which Rory McIlroy is throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

"I know Olympic Club is going to be difficult, but I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

"It's more the atmosphere. I remember The Open at Hoylake (his only previous Major was there in 2006) and I thrived on it."

In-form German Marcel Siem and Dutchman Tim Sluiter share second place after rounds of 68, with Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm and Ireland’s Simon Thornton joining Spanish pair Pablo Larrazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño on two under.

Siem, who has already had five top-12 finishes this season and led going into the final round here two years ago, said: “It was gusty, windy and there were firm greens, so three under was good.  

“It’s really nice to play out here. I love the course and I've had a lot of very good rounds here already. The greens are firm, which suits my high ball flight. You have to think a bit more around the course now because it's a lot firmer and the traps are in play all of a sudden.” 

Scot Paul Lawrie, second on the Ryder Cup points table, needed to birdie two of his last three holes for a 74, the same score as 2010 Captain Colin Montgomerie, while his successor José María Olazábal took 76 and defending champion Alex Noren signed for an 81 before withdrawing with back trouble.