Denmark’s Anders Hansen shook off the effects of a hand injury to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the French Open at Le Golf National on Thursday.
The 42-year-old, who will have an operation in Zurich next week to deal with the long-standing problem, birdied his final hole for a five-under-par 66 on the course outside Versailles that will stage the 2018 Ryder Cup.
He had seven birdies and only two bogeys on a day when many players in a top-class European Tour field struggled over the demanding four-holes closing stretch.
Hansen’s only bogeys came at the first and eighth — the latter after leaving his chip 10 feet short of the hole. Those dropped shots sandwiched birdies from eight feet at the fifth and 30 feet on the sixth, after the three-time European Tour winner had gone out in 31.
“I’m telling you, it’s a great venue for the Ryder Cup,” Hansen said. “The course is set up perfect for it. The spectators get such a good view and it’s such a great finish to the round — I think it’s going to be a great venue.”
“It is a tough course — the greens are pretty firm and it’s tight out there. There’s hardly any wind, and you see the scores aren’t that great,” he added. “At some stage it seemed a bit easy, but this course gets your attention and next thing you know, you’re making bogeys.”
Hopes of a first home win since Thomas Levet in 2011 were boosted by emerging star Romain Wattel, who finished the day second on four-under 67, one shot ahead of a large group containing 2009 winner Martin Kaymer of Germany.
The 22-year-old Wattel was able to limit the damage done by bogeys at the 15th and 16th with six birdies — a couple of them the result of monster putts.
“You are in front of the French crowds, so you want to be good, you want to play great golf and so there is pressure on me,” said Wattel, who has already impressed this season with a third-place finish in Austria and fourth in South Korea.
“I’m trying to play my best and just focus on the shot I have to play — that’s the only thing I can do,” he added.
Ryder Cup stars Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell shot 71 and 69 respectively to stay well in contention.