Good starts eclipsed by one great start

 

Ireland's handful of participants carded respectable starts on the first day of the inaugural Nordic Open today, only to be entirely overshadowed by the record scoring of France's Raphael Jacquelin.

Gary Murphy and Peter Lawrie lead the Irish contingent after a 69 each left them on three under, while Damien McGrane carded a 71 to leave himself alongside earlier starter Ronan Rafferty but nine shots behind late starter Jacquelin.

First out at 7:30am local time, Jacquelin established a new course record with a 10 under par 62 for a three-shot lead over Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, Warrington's Phillip Archer and Scot Raymond Russell, who birdied his last six holes to be home in 29.

A six-strong group of players - including English quartet Steve Webster, Brian Davis, David Gilford and Andrew Raitt - were a shot further back on six under.

In total 112 of the 156-strong field shot par or better, but Montgomerie failed to find his scoring touch on his return to action after three weeks enforced lay-off.

The former European number one injured his right hand when he tripped and fell in his hotel just hours before his first round in the Open championship last month.

He was advised not to play at all but decided to risk it, only to pull out after completing just seven holes at Royal St George's.

The 40-year-old has not played since, and although the injury has still not fully healed, he was keen to get back into competitive mode before next week's USPGA championship at Oak Hill.

He could only find three birdies however and said: "I was glad my hand did not suffer, that was the main thing, but I missed a number of putts and on a low scoring course like this, if you don't hole out you don't score.

"I've not putted well at all this year and I don't know why. It's the same putter and the same person but they are not going in. I'm not holing out as well as I can or should. "The greens are very good so there are no excuses there.

Unfortunately the problem is me. The course won't play any easier than this, ever. "There will be a 62 every day and I hope I do one of them. I need one, it will probably take 25 or 26 under to win so two under is not a very good start."

In contrast Jacquelin carded eight birdies and an eagle despite failing to birdie two of the four reachable par fives, his girlfriend Fanny Chabre making a hugely successful debut as his caddie.

"My usual caddie had to stay in Paris to sort out some problems," explained Jacquelin, who also carded a 62 in the Italian Open in Rome last year.

"Last week I had his twin brother and although he didn't make any mistakes it wasn't right. Fanny wanted to try one week and we shot 62, a pretty good start!

"It's not easy the first time but she was pretty good. She is with me every week so she knows a bit about golf, she had the yardage book and sometimes she helps with the line on the greens."

Jacquelin had an outside chance of shooting the first ever 59 in Europe when he stood nine under after 15 holes, with two par fives still to come.

But he parred the 16th and then hit his drive into a fairway bunker on the 17th and almost hit Chabre with the ball when it caught the lip of the trap and squirted out sideways.

"She was a bit scared because she knew it would be a two-shot penalty," added Jacquelin, who missed the cut last week in Sweden.

Russell already holds a share of the record for most consecutive birdies on tour - firing eight in a row in the British Masters in 1997 - and tomorrow needs to birdie the three holes he failed to on the front nine today to set a new record.

Archer finished 12th in Sweden last week, his best result on tour, after a 'kick up the backside' from coach Mark Pearson.

"He came out to a couple of tournaments and told me my preparation was not good enough," said Archer, who finished second in the qualifying school last year.

"He told me I had to use the practice rounds a bit more and it's paid off."

Home favourite Thomas Bjorn struggled with a recurrence of a neck injury but finished in style with birdies at the last four holes in his 67.

"I struggled with my neck yesterday and it got worse this morning, it was difficult to get out of bed," said Bjorn, second in the Open and Irish Open on his last two appearances.