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Syme and Smith star at Celtic Manor

Syme and Smith star at Celtic Manor

Connor Syme was pleased to maintain his recent good form by claiming a share of the first round lead at the 2020 ISPS HANDA Wales Open.

Connor Syme

The Scot, who topped the leaderboard after 54 holes over the same Celtic Manor Resort layout last week before finishing tied for third, shot a five under par 66.

That left him alongside England's Jordan Smith, with the pair two shots clear of American Kurt Kitayama, Scotland's Robert MacIntyre, England's Callum Shinkwin and Sweden's Sebastian Soderberg.

The 25-year-old Syme mixed seven birdies with two bogeys in testing conditions, while Smith registered three gains in four holes around the turn and six in total, alongside a dropped shot on the fourth.

“It was good, it was playing tricky obviously with the wind,” said Syme. “We were thinking a little bit about how they might change the golf course but the wind has certainly done that for us – a completely different direction and a lot stronger.

“It was a good round, I had to plan my way around differently but I did that and holed a few nice putts which was a bonus. 

“I took a lot of confidence from last week. It was a new experience for me having a 54-hole lead and I really enjoyed it. 

“I'm trying to get back into those positions as much as I can. It's a good start, which is good, and hopefully I can kick on.

“You never know how you are going to handle it until you are in those situations and sleeping on a lead out here was obviously new. Winning on Challenge Tour definitely helped me. It's about drawing on all the experiences and building that bank up as much as I can and I guess today was another one of those.”

Smith, who captured his maiden European Tour title in Germany three years ago, has made eight cuts in nine appearances this season but believes that his rare weekend off at the Hero Open three weeks ago has benefited his game.

“It was just about keeping a level head today,” he said. “A lot of the holes out there were different to last week.

“You can even see on the last there, hardly anyone is going for it. So it’s just about taking advantage of the short holes and just hanging in there on the really tough par holes.

“You’ve just got to keep that ball flight down, especially into the wind, and having a good guestimation really. Guess a good number and get the right flight.

“I did a lot of work in lockdown and the missed cut at Forest of Arden was probably a blessing in disguise. We’d probably gone a bit too far with what we were working on with the swing and just getting it back more neutral.

“That’s definitely helped the last few weeks, I’ve been able to control the ball a lot better. It’s just been about a lot of work during lockdown and even back to Christmas.”

Sam Horsfield’s bid for back-to-back wins at Celtic Manor and a third victory in the space of four weeks got off to a flying start with three birdies in the first five holes, but the 23-year-old eventually signed for a two-over-par 73.

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