German veteran Marcel Siem boosted his hopes of a maiden Masters appearance on Thursday when he built a three-shot lead after the opening round of the Trophee Hassan II.
Siem, twice a winner on the European Tour, carded an eight-under-par, a round topped off by an eagle-birdie finish as the world No. 72 eyed the top-50 ranking he needs to make the Augusta qualifying mark.
“I didn’t know I still had a chance for the Masters, but now we know there are four or five of us in the field here who still might be able to get to the Masters if we win,” Siem said.
“It is a nice incentive, but I came here first and foremost to play this tournament and play this golf course. The Masters would be pretty special, but I just have to concentrate on what I am doing in this tournament,” he added.
Spaniard Alvaro Velasco was second overnight after a five-under 67 as both he and Siem enjoyed the better afternoon playing conditions at the Golf du Palais Royal.
Windy conditions in the morning meant that only four players broke par — that group included the 2011 champion, England’s David Horsey, who shot six birdies and two bogeys.
At the other end of the scoreboard, the Czech Republic’s Jakub Svoboda was 21-over after just six holes, before he pulled out with the European Tour’s worst score beckoning.
The 20-year-old, ranked 1,522 in the world, carded a seven, seven, nine, another couple of sevens and a nine at the sixth.
The European Tour record high score for a single round is the 111 set by Mark James at the Italian Open in 1978.