By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Moscow Country Club
In-form Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin recovered from a three-putt at the first hole to post a superb six under par 66 for a share of the Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) lead with 2013 rookie Simon P Brown.
The 51 year old Madrid native fired seven birdies during the first round at Moscow Country Club to reach the top alongside Brown, who qualified for the 2013 European Senior Tour by virtue of a runner-up finish at the Qualifying School earlier this year.
Australia’s Mike Harwood was one shot further back after an excellent 67 which was matched by Denmark’s Steen Tinning, while England’s Barry Lane was amongst a six-man group on four under par with former Senior Tour Number Ones Peter Fowler and Boonchu Ruangkit.
With the European Senior Tour returning to Russia for just the second time, and first since 2008, there was some good scoring on Friday on the Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed layout, the first 18-hole course in the country when it was opened in 1994, and none more so than that of Martin.
While fine early conditions later gave way to rain, Martin took advantage of a still, bright, yet chilly morning on the outskirts of Moscow as the three-time European Tour winner’s opening bogey proved the only low-point of a good day’s work.
The Spaniard found four birdies on the front nine while a further three in succession from the 15th, including two putts of 30 feet or more, fired him top.
“My driving was not very good but my irons and putting were excellent,” said Martin, who has finished inside the top seven three times in his last four starts on the Senior Tour, most recently notching a tied runner-up spot two weeks ago in Woburn.
“But my misses were good misses; I avoided the trees, hit the semi-rough and was still able to attack the greens.
“The last month I have played very well and I think a change in shaft has helped me a lot. You only need to look at the card and see I have three twos on the par threes so my irons are very good.”
Curiously, it also means that two Miguel Angels currently top European leaderboards, what with Martin’s compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez, two years his junior, on top in the Netherlands at the KLM Open on The European Tour.
Brown was bogey free in his 66 at a course which has previously yielded the Englishman a good finish all of 17 years ago – a tied fourth place at the 1996 Russian Open, then part of the Challenge Tour schedule.
Surrey-raised Brown, the head professional at Golf Club Rhein-Sieg in Bonn, Germany, since 1984, finished behind David James in the Senior Tour Qualifying School final in February to capture his card for this year and after a season-best finish of tied 15th in his adopted homeland last week the 50 year old again looked in terrific touch at Moscow Country Club.
Brown found 16 greens in regulation on Friday – and chipped in at one those he did miss at the short 16th – for a share of the lead and afterwards spoke of his golfing stimulus.
“If you look at [2012 Rookie of the Year] Paul Wesselingh alone, he is an enormous inspiration,” said Brown, who, if he wins this week, would become the fourth rookie to triumph in 2013 following Tinning, Spain’s Santiago Luna and Scot Colin Montgomerie.
“I’m still a club professional, still working in Germany, so to see what the likes of Paul and the other first-time winners this year have done is hugely encouraging.”
Harwood, meanwhile, is this week playing only his third tournament of the season after a year blighted by an elbow injury which kept him out of action until the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters.
A whirlwind start of three birdies on the spin saw the 54 year old Sydney man begin well and he added a further three gains and just the one dropped shot en route to a five under par 67 in which he hit 17 greens in regulation.
That was a score matched by Tinning, who won his maiden Senior Tour event at the Berenberg Masters in early August, and the Dane is again well-placed heading into the weekend after some sublime iron play helped the 2013 rookie to a back nine of just 31 blows.
Elsewhere, Montgomerie, who won his first Senior Tour event in just in third start at Woburn two weeks ago, opened up with a three under par 69 for a share of 11th place.
|1||BROWN, Simon P||ENG||18||-12|
|T4||MARTIN, Miguel Angel||ESP||18||-9|