Erlandsson puts big names in the shade

The sun shone, but the big names did not in the opening round of the Spanish Open in Seville on Thursday.

The sun shone, but the big names did not in the opening round of the Spanish Open in Seville on Thursday.

Leader by one after a seven-under-par 65 was Swede Martin Erlandsson, only 345th in the world, and his two closest challengers were Spaniards Ignacio Garrido and Jordi Garcia, respectively ranked 350th and 1,102nd.

Recently married Colin Montgomerie, returning after a five-week lay-off, hit back from two opening bogeys to shoot 70, but last week's winner Darren Clarke had to settle for a 72 and American John Daly, on a two-week trip to Europe, could do no better than 75.

Montgomerie, with a target of two wins in the next two months to make his presence felt in the race for Ryder Cup places, said: "My job is to get back in the team and I am nowhere near yet."

Golf may be his job, but the Scot revealed the sport that most excites him is actually cricket.

"It's my son Cameron's 10th birthday today and he loves his cricket just like me. It's my favourite game - forget this lark!"

Newly-wedded bliss did not stop him displaying his displeasure when a spectator stood in the wrong place during his round, however.

Montgomerie stared, but the man stared back and after quite some time it was actually the eight-time European number one who yielded and turned his focus back to his next shot.

Clarke, who ended two and a half years without a victory in Shanghai on Sunday, blamed mental fatigue and one treacherous green for his score.

"I didn't get much sleep again - last week took more out of me than I realised," said the 39-year-old Ulsterman.

"Mentally, I was not at the races. The game's fine, but my head's tired - I made some poor decisions."

The green in question was the short 17th, where Clarke three-putted for bogey just after seeing Thomas Levet four-putt for a triple bogey six.

"It's like glass and it's on a hill. They've destroyed the green," said the Frenchman - winner himself of the Andalucian Open only five weeks ago - after dropping two more strokes on the last and signing for a 79.

Clarke added: "It's dead - just pathetic really."

Playing partner Daly has not had a top 10 finish for three years in crashing to 595th on the world rankings and the former Open champion felt like a broken record when he commented: "I hit it good, but putted bad again.

"It's the same stuff. I've had two years of this. I'm getting nothing out of it and it's frustrating."

Paul McGinley, another back from China, needed two birdies in the last three holes just to return a 74, the same score as South African Charl Schwartzel, who is trying to become the first player to make a successful defence of the title since Max Faulkner in 1953.

Erlandsson did not make the journey out to the Far East because he suffers so badly from jet-lag and that paid dividends when he grabbed seven birdies, finishing with three in a row.

The 34-year-old Malmo golfer needed four attempts to earn a Tour card and after 124 events is still searching for his first victory.

Erlandsson's best finish was the 2005 Wales Open, where he claimed joint second behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, but the closest he has come was last season's Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

A superb 66 made him the clubhouse leader for a long time on the final day, but in the end he had to settle for third place a shot behind Marc Warren and play-off loser Simon Wakefield.

Garrido was a member of Europe's 1997 Ryder Cup side and won the Tour's PGA Championship five years ago, but he has had only six top-10 finishes since then.

Garcia, like famous namesake Sergio, is from Castellon and he eagled the 517-yard 13th in his 66.

More in this section

Ireland's Top 10 Hidden Gems

Ten of the best golf courses in Ireland that too few people know about.

Read Here

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox