Paul Lawrie almost hits first 59 in European Tour history

Simon Thornton leads the Irish challenge after opening round of the KLM Open

Paul Lawrie threatened to record the first 59 in European Tour history before carding a brilliant opening 61 in the KLM Open, but still had to settle for a share of the lead.

Starting from the 10th at Kennemer Golf Club, Lawrie carded an eagle and four birdies to race to the turn in 28 and picked up further shots on the second, sixth and seventh.

That left the former Open champion needing to birdie the last two holes to break the magical 60 barrier, albeit on a par-70 and with preferred lies in operation, but the 46-year-old Scot pulled his tee shot on the eighth into a greenside bunker and did well to save par from eight feet.

Another par on the last meant Lawrie had to be content with the lowest round of his European Tour career, a score matched late in the day by Australia’s Wade Ormsby.

Simon Thornton finished on three under par, he was best of the Irish ahead of Peter Lawrie on two under. Paul McGinley is tied for 61st after an opening 69, Padraig Harrington carded a 71, with Damien McGrane a shot adrift on 72, ahead of Kevin Phelan who finished three over par.

Ormsby was three under par after 11 holes but birdied six of the last seven to match Lawrie’s back nine of 28 and finish nine under par, one shot ahead of England’s Richard Bland.

Six birdies and an eagle in the first 15 holes meant Bland also had the chance to shoot 59, but three closing pars left him alone in third, a shot ahead of English trio James Morrison, David Horsey and Robert Rock, Dutch home favourite Joost Luiten and Argentina’s Tani Goya.

“Sixty-one — it sounds good, doesn’t it?” Lawrie said. “I played very nicely and putted very well again. I hit a lot of really good shots and it couldn’t have been much lower than that. I’m usually moaning that I could have been three or four less, but that was pretty much all I could have got.

“The 59 did cross my mind. I had a long putt on the seventh for eagle after a lovely three wood in there, and had that popped in one birdie in the last two holes would not have been asking too much.

“In the back of your mind it’s in there, but 61 is still a good effort.”

Lawrie, who recorded his first top 10 of the year by finishing tied for sixth in Denmark three weeks ago, had pulled out of a pre-tournament pro-am on Tuesday suffering from a back injury.

“The back is not great to be fair but it’s all right,” he added. “I did not play any golf on Wednesday and just stayed in the hotel and did some stretching, so might do the same again.”