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James Morrison leads after tough first day in Sotogrande

James Morrison leads after tough first day in Sotogrande

James Morrison produced a brilliant burst of scoring around the turn as he fired a superb 64 in tricky conditions to lead by one shot after the first day of the 2023 Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.

Spain has been a happy hunting ground for the Englishman, who claimed his second DP World Tour title at the Open de España in 2015, and he shone again in Andalucia on Thursday to reach eight under par.

Morrison enjoyed a remarkable hot streak in the middle of his round, making one eagle and five birdies in seven holes either side of the turn.

Strong winds made life difficult for the players in the afternoon, with Morrison dropping his only shot on the 15th.

But he made a spectacular bounce-back birdie on the 16th before producing a fine par save at the last as the wind buffeted him.

Fellow morning starter Nick Bachem was Morrison's nearest challenger on seven under after he carded an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys in his 65.

Defending champion Adrian Otaegui, who won at nearby Real Club Valderrama 12 months ago, was a shot further back following his bogey-free 66.

Daniel Gavins and Wil Besseling were in a tie for fourth on five under, with afternoon starter Jeong weon Ko among those on four under after 15 holes of his round when play was suspended due to fading light.

Morrison opened his birdie account with a ten-footer at the third before a chip-in eagle on the sixth took him to three under.

He followed that up with back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth before saving par from 13 feet at the ninth to keep his card clean.

The 38-year-old then reeled off a hat-trick of birdies from the tenth, with his putter continuing to serve him well.

He surrendered the outright lead with a bogey on the 15th after missing the green but got the shot straight back at the 16th after sending his approach shot to two feet.

Morrison closed his round with back-to-back pars to set the clubhouse target at eight under, and with conditions failing to improve, no-one was able to catch him at the top.

"I’m very happy," said Morrison. "I knew the draw was going to be that way and we got more holes in this morning with no wind than we actually thought we were going to get in, so we had to make hay while the sun was shining and I did that. 

"Spain’s been very, very good to me over the last 14 years. 

"I love coming here, it suits my eye, most courses inherently aren’t as long as we play on Tour so they’re more positional sort of golf courses."

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