Haeggman survives goose attack to stay in touch

Joakim Haeggman survived an attack from an angry goose to lie just two shots off the lead after the first round of the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia.

Joakim Haeggman survived an attack from an angry goose to lie just two shots off the lead after the first round of the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia.

Haeggman was playing the 18th hole at Aloha Golf Club when he was set upon and forced to defend himself in extraordinary fashion.

“I slapped him right in the face!” the Swede told PA Sport. “He wanted to have a go at me so I had no choice.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever had to slap a goose on a golf course.”

The bizarre incident occurred next to the lake on the left of the fairway but Haeggman maintained his composure to save par from the back of the green on his way to an opening 67 – five-under par.

That was good enough for a five-way share of third place, two behind surprise leader Matthew Zions of Australia.

Spain’s Alejandro Canizares claimed outright second with a six-under 66.

Ryder Cup team-mates Paul McGinley and Lee Westwood had to settle for rounds of 71 and 72 respectively, Westwood throwing his putter at his bag several times in frustration at his continuing poor form on the greens.

Haeggman lost his card last season after a serious shoulder injury and missed the cut in seven of his eight events so far this year before arriving on the Costa del Sol.

But he made use of some very local knowledge by using local resident and former European Tour professional Olle Karlsson as his caddy.

“It makes a nice change to get a good round under my belt,” said Haeggman, the first Swede to play in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1993.

“I haven’t been driving the ball well and not putting up to my usual standards, and that’s a pretty lethal combination.

“But it was good to have Olle on the bag, he was always telling me ’don’t aim away from the flag, it’s only a wedge’, and it worked.

“He lives here now, he even walked to the course this morning, and he’s played it a million times so that helped a lot.”

Haeggman carded seven birdies and two bogeys while playing partners Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez – whose company is staging the event – recorded rounds of 71 and 72 respectively.

For Bjorn, a 71 was a welcome return after doubts about his form and fitness.

The Dane had missed the cut in two of his last three events since an encouraging 11th place in the WGC CA Championship in Miami in March, and then injured his wrist in a fall while giving a television interview at home in Wentworth.

The cast was only taken off on Saturday and the 36-year-old had just this week to find some form ahead of the defence of his Irish Open title next week.

“I played really well apart from two bad drives on the first and second,” said Bjorn, who recorded four birdies, one bogey and one double bogey.

“I also three-putted the last when I got a bit greedy but there was a lot of good golf out there today.

“The wrist was a little bit stiff this morning but I need to get it warm this week because I’m not sure it’s going to be so warm next week.”

Leader Zions is one of just six players to have earnt his card by coming through all three stages of the qualifying school last year, and is based in Denver, Colorado where he attended university.

“It was a fun putting day,” said the 28-year-old. “It’s been a cause of frustration in the last few events, I’ve been spending a lot of time over my putts, thinking too much about it.

“But today I felt comfortable, didn’t take too long and the putts were going in.

“For the last three years I tried to get my card on the US Tour but never made it past stage two of the qualifying, so thought I’d come over here and give it a go.

“I needed to two-putt from about 100ft on the final hole at St Annes Old Links to make it through the first stage. The green is about 48 yards long and I won’t forget that hole in a hurry.”

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