Two lesser lights of the European Tour made their mark on the first day of the Johnnie Walker Championship when attention had been focused on who would make this year’s European Ryder Cup team.
Chasing the last of the 10 automatic places, Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium shot an early 69 — he must finish first or second tomorrow to guarantee his debut against the US at Medinah in Chicago next month.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari of Italy, who have already qualified for the team, shot impressive 68s later on a day when Gleneagles was swept by gusting winds, but by the close of the first day they were chasing Australia’s Brett Rumford and Norway’s Knut Borsheim, who shared the lead after shooting five-under 67s.
Borsheim is 215th in this year’s Race to Dubai with a best finish of tied 16th at the Madeira Islands Open and Rumford’s form has been little better for the past two years.
In 2010, the 35-year-old, a three-time European Tour winner from Perth, had six top 10 finishes, but since his wife gave birth to twins he has found himself distracted.
“I have been trying to fit in seven-hour practice sessions, but I have been trying to be there for my girls as well and be as good a father as I can be, trying to juggle many things at once,” Rumford said.
After taking advice from a sports psychologist, Rumford believes his game could be getting back on track.
Lawrie admitted after his seven-birdie round that being in contention for a Ryder Cup recall after a 13-year absence, since he won the Qatar Masters in February, had affected his game.
“You can never know how much the Ryder Cup plays on your mind — you’re looking at the list and wondering whether someone is going to pass you,” Lawrie said. “I have been struggling a bit with my ball striking, grinding it out a bit and it’s got me down. I have been a bit grumpy over the last couple of months, but I have been grinning like a Cheshire cat since it was confirmed that I have made the team because I wanted to get in so badly, and now I am in the team the good ball-striking has come back.”
Colsaerts would have been the focus of attention for European captain Jose Maria Olazabal. If the Belgian does not finish in the top two, he will have to rely on a wild-card pick.
“Obviously, the big goal is playing, but if I can get myself into the team automatically it would be a big boost,” said the 29-year-old after a round which started on the 11th tee and included a run of four birdies in five holes from the 14th.
“After the way I have been playing for the past year I feel OK playing in this company and I know that on any given day I can take on anybody, which is why I have done so well in matchplay events,” he said.