Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Mark Brown held a slim lead after the first round of the Ballantine’s Championship yesterday, but defending champion Graeme McDowell faces a battle to make the cut.
The seven-under-par 65s hit by Fernandez-Castano and Brown put them a stroke ahead of Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, South Korea’s Kang Kyung-nam and the Netherlands’ Robert-Jan Derksen at the 2.1 million euro (US$2.7 million) tournament.
A further three players are on five-under, while three-time major winner Ernie Els and world No. 9 Henrik Stenson are a further shot adrift, among 12 players on four-under.
New Zealander Brown set the early pace at the par-72 Pinx Golf Club, sinking six birdies and an eagle, the same as Fernandez-Castano.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Els said he had played a solid round.
“I didn’t have a bogey on the card, which I haven’t done for a while. Weather-wise it was beautiful, a total contrast to yesterday. The golf course is really there for the taking,” he said.
Despite the calm conditions, Northern Ireland’s McDowell, who blitzed the course in last year’s inaugural event, carded six bogeys in an error-strewn round of 76.
Taiwan’s Lu Wei-chih was at two-under par, while his compatriot Lin Wen-hong was at three-under. Lin Wen-tang trailed behind at one-over par.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER