Nilsson edges ahead

7/5/2012 1:02:41 PM
Christian Nilsson   (Getty Images)
Christian Nilsson (Getty Images)
Sweden’s Christian Nilsson took a one shot clubhouse lead midway through the opening round of the Alstom Open de France with a six under par 65.

The former St Omer winner had seven birdies and a single bogey before parring Le Golf National’s tricky final three.

That put Nilsson one ahead of England's Gary Boyd, Thai Thongchai Jaidee and Italian teenager Matteo Manassero.

“I'm very happy,” said Nilsson, whose best finish to date this season is 38th. “It's been a struggle this year for me so far, so I really needed this score today, and especially on this tough course. It's good for my confidence.

“I think the course plays quite tough even though it's calm conditions and beautiful weather, but still a tough course. I’m really pleased with six under par. 

“I've been practising on things I believe in and just waiting for something to happen. It finally looks like it did.”

Just over a month since running up two tens in an opening 88 at the ISPS Handa Wales Open, 25 year old Boyd produced a bogey-free 66.

Boyd, twice a runner-up since graduating from The Challenge Tour at the end of the 2009 season, shared second with Manassero and Jaidee – who in contrast to Boyd won in Wales.

After three birdies in the first four holes former amateur international Boyd picked up more shots at the ninth and tenth and then parred in over a closing stretch sure to create drama when the 2018 Ryder Cup is staged here.

Manassero, who already has two European Tour wins to his name, also had five birdies and no dropped shots.

Some of the bigger names got off to rocky starts, but were fighting their way back in it.

World Number Three Lee Westwood was four over after a double bogey at the 15th - his sixth - but then came four birdies to take him back to level par, the same as Graeme McDowell, who had kicked off his challenge with a double bogey.

Open Champion Darren Clarke and Ryder Cup trio Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey were all among the later starters.

Boyd said: "I went to see my coach in America and have worked hard. There have been a lot of positive signs the last three weeks and I felt my game was in good shape coming here."

Westwood's one under 70 was a fine effort given he had been four over after six, but he had to work hard for a closing par five on the ninth.

His drive finished on the edge of the lake and Westwood rolled up his trouser legs, but kept his shoes and socks on and had water up to his calves as he hacked the ball out.

Rose made a fine start, birdies at the second, third and sixth taking him into a tie for fifth on three under, three behind Nilsson.

While The Race to Dubai leader’s start was impressive it was bettered by Italian Federico Colombo, who had six birdies in his first ten holes – incredibly including four in succession from the 16th – to join Nilsson out in front.