Jean Pierre Sallat delighted the home supporters by taking a share of the first round lead in the French Riviera Masters at the stunning Terre Blanche Resort and Golf Club.
The 57 year old Frenchman, who qualified for the tournament by winning the French PGA Senior Open, opened with a four under par 68, which was matched by Paraguay’s Angel Franco in perfect conditions in Provence.
Five players were a shot further back on the Chateau course at Terre Blanche, which holds the distinguished title of European Tour Destination within the European Tour Properties portfolio, including Englishmen Nick Job, Carl Mason and David J Russell, South African Chris Williams and Swede Anders Forsbrand.
Making only his fifth appearance on the Senior Tour this season, Sallat said: “It was a perfect day when everything went right. My putting, driving and iron shots were all excellent and I didn’t make a mistake all day. It’s nice to be playing in my home country and this is a good start to an excellent week.”
Franco added: “I had six birdies and two bogeys, which is always a good start. I hit the ball very well and overall I’m very pleased.”
Forsbrand, who won the SSE Scottish Senior Open last month, had a disastrous journey to France from the United States, but rallied to post a promising three under par 69.
He said: “It was one of those days where I didn’t feel too good, but I played okay and hit a lot of fairways and greens and putted pretty well.
“It’s a tricky course and I only saw it for the first time yesterday. I flew in from America on Wednesday and had a nightmare with a cancelled flight then my bags being lost and arriving later on a night flight. So I only got back from the airport at 1.30am and it takes a few days to get over the jet lag. But it’s a good start.”
Williams made the ideal start with an eagle at the par five first, but two bogeys in his last three holes prevented him from taking the lead.
“It was a great way to start,” he said. “I hit an unusually long drive - much longer than I was supposed to hit it – and then a little three iron into the green, which came up just short, and I chipped my third shot straight into the hole.
“Sometimes you can start too fast though and it can make you a bit unsettled, but I played very well until the last couple of holes when I missed the fairway. That puts pressure on your iron shots, and I actually made a lucky bogey at the last with a good putt from 12 feet.”
Praise for Terre Blanche, which is hosting the event for the first time, poured in all day, with Job saying: “It’s fabulous here, a wonderful place, so it’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a tricky course, but a very good one and an enjoyable one to play. Plus the clubhouse and the food is magnificent, so it’s set to be a very nice week.”
The 63 year old added: “It’s a relief to play nicely for once, because this season it has been pretty grim. I started to play well, but then I had my clubs stolen from the boot of my car in June which was a disaster, and it has taken time to get back into it. Hopefully I can have a good finish to the year.”