Van de Velde shares early lead in France

Jean Van de Velde, playing just his second European Tour event of the year, shared the early lead after an opening five under par 66 in the Alstom French Open at Le Golf National near Paris today.

Jean Van de Velde, playing just his second European Tour event of the year, shared the early lead after an opening five-under-par 66 in the Alstom French Open at Le Golf National near Paris today.

No longer a member of the circuit and very much a part-time golfer these days, the 44-year-old admitted he had no expectations coming into the week - and still does not.

"I've come for the fun of it," the world's 1,175th-ranked player said after his bogey-free display. "I don't wake up wanting to go to the range any more.

"But we will see - you never know with a Frenchman!"

Father-of-four Van de Velde, still remembered, of course, for his closing triple bogey seven when leading the 1999 Open by three, shared top spot in the clubhouse with defending champion Martin Kaymer and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares.

Out on the course German Marcel Siem reached seven under after 12 holes, but double-bogeyed the next and was still tied for the lead with two to play.

The tournament had a major boost when two of its biggest names - Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter - were able to tee off after lunch.

Westwood was taken to hospital on the eve of the event and was relieved to be told he was not suffering from a blood clot in his swollen leg as initially feared.

Poulter, meanwhile, had suffered a nasty reaction to an insect bite - also on his right leg - suffered while practising at Woburn on Monday.

Rory McIlroy shot 68, Luke Donald 70 and Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie a two over 73 as he continued to battle with a calf and Achilles tendon problem.

Van de Velde has also had his drama on this course over the years, most notably in 2005 when he lost a play-off to compatriot Jean-Francois Remesy after going in the water on the final hole again.

"I have a few scars and some have not healed," he added.

He is due to commentate on The Open at St Andrews in two weeks, but victory on Sunday would earn him a place in the championship.

"Do you think I can play with a microphone?" he asked.

Far from struggling Poulter set off with a birdie and Westwood picked up shots on the second and sixth.

With Siem finishing with a bogey Van de Velde, Kaymer and Canizares remained out in front on five under.

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