David Law of Scotland shot a 7-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Oliver Fisher, Garrick Porteous and Renato Paratore in the opening round of the British Masters at Close House Golf Course near Newcastle.
Aaron Cockerill, Rasmus Hojgard, Lee Slattery and Pedro Figueiredo were another shot back in a share of fifth, holding off a gaggle of nine players on 4 under.
Law began his first round with five straight pars but then birdied the next five holes in a row, produced a brilliant up and down from thick rough to save par on the 11th and birdied the 12th and 13th as well. The Scotsman had missed five cuts in seven events in 2020, including four in a row before the sport shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I did not really know what to expect and it’s probably [about having] a mindset of acceptance,” Law said. “You need to know it might not go your way this week. It’s only one round but it’s a very positive start.”
ALSO READ | Jon Rahm going places in a hurry with his rise to World No. 1
The tournament marks the start of the European Tour’s U.K. Swing, a series of six events played in England and Wales over the next six weeks devised primarily for ease of travel for players amid the coronavirus pandemic. The venues for the six events are all within a three-hour drive of one another, scrapping the need for air travel to which players have become accustomed on the increasingly global tour. Players and caddies have been tested on arrival - will have to check for symptoms and take a temperature test daily - and then had an antigen test before stepping on the first tee. No positive results have been reported.
1-under 70 for Lee Westwood
England’s Lee Westwood, the only player in the field ranked in the world’s top-50 at No. 34 and host of the event in northern England, finished six shots back after shooting a 1-under 70. “I didn’t really have control of my swing and I mis-clubbed a few times which is probably not acceptable being a member here,” Westwood said.
“But I putted really well and ground it out and I think 1-under par is probably a really good score for the way that I played.”
Most of Europe’s elite are in the United States ahead of a World Golf Championship in Tennessee, where the prize fund of USD 10.5 million is around 7.5 times that of the British Masters, and then the PGA Championship in San Francisco starting on 6 August.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, making his 706th appearance on the European Tour to tie the record of Sam Torrance, finished four back after a 3-under 68 in an 11-way tie for 18th that also includes former US Open champion Michael Campbell. The New Zealander had not made a cut on the European Tour since 2013 as he struggled with a foot injury and loss of form.
ALSO READ | Brooks Koepka: Racism must be confronted everywhere in the world
“My expectations were pretty much none,” Campbell said. “I wanted to get out here and enjoy myself with my son Thomas. When I had my success from 1999 to 2005 he was only seven, so he can’t remember.”
Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult, the 98th-ranked defending champion and one of only three players inside the world’s top 100 featuring this week along with No. 82-ranked Eddie Pepperell, shot a 2-under 69. Pepperell had a better showing, shooting a 4-under 67 for a share of ninth place.