Backstrom buoyed

A rare albatross on Thursday helped Sweden’s Joakim Backstrom to claim a share of the lead after the first round of the Inteco Russian Open.

A rare albatross on Thursday helped Sweden’s Joakim Backstrom to claim a share of the lead after the first round of the Inteco Russian Open.

Starting from the 10th hole at Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, Backstrom had already birdied the 12th and 14th when he holed his second shot to the 561-yard par-five 15th.

“It was a four iron from 233 yards,” Backstrom said after two bogeys and four more birdies completed a round of 65, seven under par.

“I hit it well and it pitched on the green and then disappeared, but the people sitting around the green didn’t really react.

“They gave me a clap, but not the kind of reaction that you would expect for an albatross so I wasn’t sure what happened.

“But when I walked up to the green it was there in the hole. Thank you very much! It was a great start, five under after six holes.”

Backstrom has made just two cuts in his last 10 events and added: “I have to be honest and say that I have been playing rubbish, so anything in red numbers is great for me, and to shoot seven under is perfect.

“I have just been struggling with every part of the game. It seems that one week I can’t putt, then the next week I can’t hit my irons.”

Backstrom’s early clubhouse target was matched later in the day by fellow Swede Fredrik Henge, Finland’s Roope Kakko and England’s David Carter.

Carter partnered Nick Faldo to victory for England in the World Cup in New Zealand in 1998, the same year he won the Irish Open.

But the 36-year-old has struggled to reproduce that form since and lost his card at the end of 2007 after finishing 172nd on the money list.

In six events this season he has made just one halfway cut but produced a flawless round today, going out in 34 and then firing five birdies in a row from the first.

John Daly was five shots off the lead after recovering from a poor start to return an opening 70, two under par.

Former champion Daly carded rounds of 80 and 89 to finish 29 over par and joint last in the Open at Royal Birkdale last week – and was two over par after seven holes in Moscow.

But despite struggling with tendonitis in his left elbow and a hand injury, Daly hit back with three birdies in his last four holes to give himself a chance of making his second halfway cut from four appearances in regular European Tour events this year.

“It could have been really bad,” Daly admitted. “I probably hit two of the worst iron shots that I have ever hit.

“They just went dead right off the tee on two of the par threes – I made a good bogey on one of them and just missed my par on the other.

“My hand is hurting pretty badly, but luckily the ground here is soft so I can get through the ball.

“That wasn’t possible last week. If the course had been hard this week I probably wouldn’t have been able to play.”

Defending champion Per-Ulrik Johansson had to settle for an opening round of 69, three under par, after a poor drive on the 18th cost him a double-bogey six.

That was nothing compared to amateur Alexei Kovalev however, the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey star staggering to a round of 99, 27 over par.

Former world tennis number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov returned an 89.

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