At precisely 7:40 this morning, the first golfers teed off on the first and tenth holes at the OMEGA European Masters. The tournament this year has particular significance because, for the first time, an event is being co-sanctioned by both the European and the Asian Tours. As a result, the player roster features some of the finest golfers from Asia and Europe. They will be competing head-to-head at the spectacular Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Crans-Montana Switzerland.
Brett Rumford rediscovered the form that made him the 2007 Omega European Masters Champion with a sensational 62 to take the first round lead at Crans-sur-Sierre.
After five holes of his first round, the Australian looked more likely to miss the halfway cut than winning the tournament again.
After striking a female spectator with his drive off the first tee, Rumford then bogeyed the fourth and fifth holes to fall back to two over par but he then embarked on an unbelievable run of nine birdies and an eagle two to rampage up the leaderboard and take a one shot lead from England’s Simon Dyson.
“I got off to a bit of a shaky start in more ways than one,” said Rumford. “I lost my drive on the first hole and I hit a lady right on the bridge of the eye and she needed to have a few stitches. It wasn’t the best of starts but there after I three putted four and bogeyed the fifth, two over through five and I wasn’t thinking a nine under was on the scorecard at the particular point.
“I don’t know how I shot nine under after that but I suppose I just got the putter running hot and the momentum was that.”
Dyson had no such dramas in his opening 63 as the Englishman put together a flawless round of golf to move to eight under.
The KLM Open winner from two weeks ago is two shots clear of Thoingchai Jaidee, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Christian Nilsson, Alex Noren, Andres Romero and Danny Willet who all signed for six under par rounds at Crans-sur-Sierre.
Dyson’s success in The Netherlands two weeks ago was his first for three years but the 31 year old put himself right in contention again in Switzerland with a round that included two eagles - at the par five first and 15th.
"I can't remember the last time I had two eagles in one round. I was thinking about that when I was standing over the putt for the second one and thankfully it went in. Winning the KLM was massive for me. It’s such a mental game this and when you get a win under your belt it does wonders for your state of mind. I am probably as confident as I have ever been at the moment."
The six men two shots behind him carded rounds of 65 at the picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre course in the Swiss Alps.
This is the first qualifying event for next year's Ryder Cup match against the USA at The Celtic Manor Resort and even at 45 Jiménez has ambitions to keep his place in Europe's Team.
He and Romero, back from the States after failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs, were playing partners and they had 13 birdies between them.
Jiménez had the edge in that department, but also had the only dropped shot at the difficult short 16th.
“This is my 21st year here but I have never won. I finished second a few times and a lot of top tens but never gone all the way,” said the Spaniard. “I do feel comfortable here. It's a nice place, very relaxing and it's a golf course where you have to hit the ball straight and control the game overall.”
Romero added: “I haven't been playing well for a while now but I seem to have rediscovered my confidence and I am really happy with six under.”
Challenge Tour graduate Nilsson carded six birdies in a bogey-free round, but revealed afterwards he had been battling a pain in his appendix all day.
“When I came to the course this morning I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to play because I had a lot of pain in my appendix area,” he said. “I'm not sure what it is yet but the doctor told me that I should be alright to play so I tried.
“The first couple of holes weren't great but it got better as I went on and I just hope that I can play tomorrow. I have had the pain since yesterday - I couldn't practice at all yesterday and then on the range this morning it was quite bad but I tried to play and it worked well.”
Thailand’s Jaidee, a member of The European Tour and the Asian Tour who are co-sanctioning this event, joined the group on six under with a fine afternoon round which included five birdies in a front nine 31.
Earlier Chris Wood burst out of the blocks in superb fashion - but then reckoned tiredness caught up with him.
At six under par after just 11 holes the 21 year old from Bristol, third in The Open Championship in July, led by two.
But Wood covered the remaining seven holes in one over and slipped one behind Spaniard Jiménez, Sweden’s Nilsson and Argentina's Romero by one.
After injuring his back during the US PGA Championship - his first Major in America - last month the six foot five inch Wood has been working hard on his fitness.
"I've had two 12-hour days here and I got a little bit tired towards the end I think," he said. "It's only going to help me and it's got to be done - my goals are long-term."
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