Mathias Gronberg holds a two-point lead after the completion of the first round of The International at Castle Rock, Colorado – but has given up hope of being in Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Overcoming some mediocre early putting, the Swede stormed home with five birdies on the back nine in delightful morning conditions. He shot a six-under-par 66, worth 13 points in the modified stableford format.
Gronberg enjoyed a two-point advantage over Stuart Appleby, Stewart Cink, Tom Pernice and John Senden.
Gronberg, 36, has virtually no chance of automatic selection to the Ryder Cup team and does not believe he is on the radar screen of European captain Ian Woosnam, who will make two wild card selections to complete his 12-man squad.
“I could receive a wild card but I don’t think I’m on that list,” Gronberg said. “I don’t think (Woosnam) notices what I do over here.”
Gronberg can hardly complain if his name has eluded Woosnam’s eye. He has only one top-10 finish in 20 starts on the PGA Tour this year.
Also in contention from a European perspective were Justin Rose, who was on 12 points approaching his final hole. However, a double bogey at the last dropped him to nine points for a share of ninth alongside fellow Briton David Howell.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson struggled to a one-over 73 worth just one point.
Fellow American Cink has much work to do to qualify for the US Ryder Cup team as he is 20th in the standings with just two events remaining to jump into the top 10 and claim an automatic berth.
“Hopefully I can have a few more rounds like today and get it taken care of,” said Cink, who was one of Hal Sutton’s captain’s picks two years ago.
“I remember the last Ryder Cup, I was not too far from where I am now, outside the top 10 trying to get my way in.
“I remember the huge sense of relief I felt after the race was over and I got picked. I went out the next week and won.”
Cink’s round was flawless, with a five-point eagle at the par-five first complementing three birdies.
The unique format awards eight points for double-eagle, five for eagle and two for birdie while subtracting one point for bogey and three for double-bogey or worse.
“The eagle was huge,” he said. “You have to have eagles to be in contention at the end of the week and it feels good to get one in the first round.”