PETER LAWRIE gave himself the chance of the first Spanish and French Open double for 24 years with an amazing opening round at Le Golf National near Paris yesterday.
Trying to emulate the feat of Bernhard Langer in 1984, the 34-year-old Dubliner began with a double bogey six, but then packed 10 birdies into the next 14 holes. Two more in the last three and he would have matched the European Tour record of Darren Clarke, Fred Couples, Ernie Els and Russell Claydon.
Instead, however, he bogeyed two of them for a five under par 66 and so ended the day in a share of second place with 19-year-old Englishman Oliver Fisher, one behind Spanish rookie Pablo Larrazabal.
“When I put my second shot in the water I thought ‘you stupid you-know-what’,” said Lawrie.
“But I hit a lot of good putts and it was one of those roller-coaster rides.”
Larrazabal is making his debut in the event, but only as a player. He caddied for his older brother Alejandro, British amateur champion in 2002, the following year, as he did in The Masters at Augusta.
His own switch to the professional ranks was delayed on the instructions of his father Gustavo, who instead made him work on the family fish farm.
“I was up at 5.30 and had to clean trays and make sure the temperature was right – I was the rookie there,” he said. “He wanted me to know how normal people work for a living.’’!
Now it is Pablo who has the Tour card, although as a Challenge Tour graduate he still had to play in the qualifying tournament last week to earn his place in the event. He won that by two, but states his main objective for the remaining 54 holes is to “just have fun out there”.
Fisher, who lost a play-off to Thomas Levet for the Andalucia Open in March, is also chasing his first Tour title. The Essex youngster, who three years ago became the youngest-ever player in the Walker Cup, was leading by one with one to play in Spain, but hit his tee shot into water.
“I’m pleased with how I handled that,” he said. “I think it was a great confidence boost for me – to be paired with Lee Westwood in the last two rounds and to out-play him by a couple of shots was good in itself.”
Westwood was back in action yesterday for the first time since his third-place finish in the US Open and he was happy enough with his 69, the same as Colin Montgomerie.
While Larrazabal did not even have a driver in his bag for the first time in his life, Westwood used his just twice and commented: “It’s a bit severe in places and takes driver out of your hands a bit, which if you are a decent driver you’re not going to like.’’
Ian Poulter, partnering Westwood, returned a one-over 72, but was pleased he had no real problems with his right wrist.
Darren Clarke, who needs to finish third to have a chance of avoiding the 36-hole Open qualifier, is on the same mark, while Ryder Cup teammate Paul McGinley, who has the same target, was two under until finishing with a double bogey six.
McGinley’s approach flew over the back of the green off a sprinkler-head, bounced on one bridge and then rolled on to another.
Frenchman Cedric Judlin had a 12 on the long third, compatriot Thomas Levet took nine (four of them slashes from the same spot in the rough) and Spaniard Pablo Martin had a nine on the short 16th as he crashed to an 85.
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