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McGowan goes low to lead in Madrid

McGowan goes low to lead in Madrid

Ross McGowan produced more magic in Madrid to fire a course record 61 and lead the way after round one of the 2021 Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid but World Number One Jon Rahm was just two shots back on home soil.

Ross McGowan

Englishman McGowan claimed his first European Tour win in the Spanish capital 12 years ago at the Madrid Masters but had to wait 11 years to seal a second at last season's Italian Open.

A third round 60 in his victory at Centro Nacional de Golf represents his lowest ever European Tour round and his opening effort this week is his second lowest as he moved to ten under at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.

Home favourite Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez was his nearest challenger but all eyes were on Rahm, who was at eight under as he seeks a third consecutive victory at his home open.

The U.S. Open Champion took huge crowds with him after this event was cancelled last season due to the coronavirus pandemic but it was McGowan who stole the headlines as he carded eight birdies and an eagle.

The 39-year-old's victory in Brescia last season handed him a first top 150 finish on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex since 2010 but he missed 16 of his next 19 cuts, including nine in a row between April and August this season.

A top five at the European Masters showed a return to form and he has brought that to Spain, lowering the course record from the first group of the day.

"First out this morning, it was a bit chilly on the range and the first four or five holes the ball wasn’t really travelling but got away with a really good birdie on three and the par five on four as well," he said.

"After that it started warming up and I started finding my range with the irons, so holed a couple of putts and hit it close so went well.

"I think a few things have clicked. Some work I have done with the coach and some of the Covid restrictions somewhat easing off, I find mentally I am in a better place, so I think it is a combination of the two.

"I always seem to putt pretty well here and last time I played quite well here too, so looking forward to tomorrow."

McGowan put his tee shot on the third to seven feet and then two putted the fourth before holing as long putt on the sixth and getting up and down from the sand on the par five seventh.

He put an approach to eight feet at the tenth to get to five under but was soon overtaken by the fast starting Rahm.

The 26-year-old put his tee shot to 11 feet at the 11th but had to wait what seemed like an age before his putt dropped in for a first birdie of the day.

A ten footer on the 13th was followed by a stunning eagle from nine feet on the next before putts from ten and 25 feet on the 16th and 17th handed him the lead.

A bogey on the 18th stalled his momentum but McGowan got hot again, leaving himself three feet at the 13th, putting his second at the next to seven feet for an eagle and playing another impressive approach into the 15th to lead by four.

Rahm made two putts from off the green at the fourth for a birdie and while McGowan hit back with a 16 footer on the 17th, Rahm made another two putts on the par five seventh and put his approach to ten feet at the eighth.

That made him the closest challenger but he was passed by Garcia Rodriguez, who has missed his last nine cuts.

The 32-year-old bogeyed the 11th but left himself less than ten feet at the 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th to get back on track.

More impressive iron play brought gains at the second, fourth and fifth before he eagled the seventh from nine feet and holed a 14 footer - his longest birdie putt of the day - on the eighth.

Dutchman Wil Besseling, Wales' Jamie Donaldson and Scot David Drysdale were at seven under, a shot clear of another Scot in Grant Forrest, Kiwi Ryan Fox, Swede Joakim Lagergren and Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist.

Forrest recorded the 31st hole-in-one of the 2021 Race to Dubai. holing an eight iron from 181 yards at the ninth.

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