In extremely windy conditions at the northern France venue, Van der Walt only managed to drop a single shot as four birdies took him one clear of Frenchman Victor Riu, who finished birdie-birdie-eagle en route to a 68.Van der Walt started steadily after teeing off at the tenth with seven pars before birdies at the 17th and 18th took him to the turn in two under and three birdies on the back nine, allied with a single bogey at the par four third, meant he took the outright lead.
“I managed the ball really well today,” said the 38 year old. “I have been doing that well the last few weeks but the putting hasn’t been great. I holed a few putts today which was good.“I made a nice one on 17, from about 30 feet and downhill which broke about six feet, and another at 18 too but credit to the greenkeepers because they slowed the greens down a little and if they didn’t do that there would be putts going off the green in that wind.
“It meant you could be a bit more aggressive, although you still have to watch out because they are quick. You still just have to hit good shots around here and it’s down to your putting then.“I drive straight so I can take driver more than a lot of guys and if you can shape it with the wind you’ll get an extra 20 or 30 yards out of the tee shot which helps. The course really suits my eye.
“I didn’t play this event last year but I like it here and if you play well here anything is possible so I'm going to try and do that and we’ll see what happens.”
Riu was the highest-placed Frenchman from the morning groups after negotiating his final three holes in four under par to lie in second place.Meanwhile, the third-placed Daniel Brooks of England produced a marvellous comeback, after a triple-bogey at the 14th, his fifth, meant he was four over through five holes before two birdies and two eagles earned him an unlikely two under par 69.