Slattery's hot form continues

Lee Slattery followed one great performance with another at Celtic Manor today.

Lee Slattery followed one great performance with another at Celtic Manor today.

Three days after shooting 66 at Walton Heath to earn himself a US Open debut, the 33-year-old from Southport took the first round lead in the ISPS Handa Wales Open with a four under par 67.

And if that does not sound special consider this – there were more than 20 scores in the eighties, one in the nineties and a handful of players could not keep a 10 off their cards. Gary Boyd even had two.

A stiff wind and fast-running conditions made life tough on the course where Europe beat America two years ago in a Ryder Cup remembered not just for its thrilling finish, but also its torrential rain.

Slattery had already made eight trips to the European Tour qualifying school by then, but his career turned around last October when, on his 183rd start, he captured the Madrid Masters – even with a double bogey seven on the final hole.

Now he is planning for a trip to San Francisco which will include not only his first-ever tournament there, but also a visit to Alcatraz and possibly the baseball game at which Rory McIlroy is throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

“I know Olympic Club is going to be difficult, but I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

“It’s more the atmosphere. I remember The Open at Hoylake (his only previous major was there in 2006) and I thrived on it.”

Slattery’s round was not without its scary moments. He was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580-yard ninth.

The hole still cost him his only dropped shot, but he added: “It was very difficult. The wind was stronger than anticipated and if you get round without a bogey it’s an amazing achievement.”

Nobody did.

Scot Paul Lawrie, second on the Ryder Cup points table, needed to birdie two of his last three holes for a 74, the same as 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie, while his successor Jose Maria Olazabal took 76 and holder Alex Noren an 81 before withdrawing with back trouble.

Slattery finished the day one ahead of German Marcel Siem and Dutchman Tim Sluiter.

While Sluiter closed with four successive birdies Siem bogeyed his last two holes on the same lay-out where he led by three with a round to play two years ago and then fell away after a quadruple bogey seven on the third.

Only four members of the victorious 2010 side are in the field. Ross Fisher, who has dropped to 157th in the world since that memorable week, did best with a 70.

Miguel Angel Jimenez took a double-bogey seven on the last for 76 and Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari were 74 and 77 respectively.

The others to break 70 were Spanish duo Pablo Larrazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Ireland’s Simon Thornton and Swede Joel Sjoholm.

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