Blustery winds and a golf course set up in perfect but demanding conditions tested this quality European Tour field and as the dust settled at Le Golf National in Paris it was Welshman Bradley Dredge who had the lead by one over Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and England’s Andy Sullivan.
Dredge is a two-time European Tour winner but the last of those came at the Omega European Masters in 2006 and given it has been nearly two years since his last top ten it has been a long time between drinks for the 45 year old.
Dredge has shown improvement in recent weeks however including when recording a final round of 68 in Germany last week and so the signs had been there for a better showing.
McDowell has missed the cut the last three times he has played this venue and event but prior to that he was a two-time winner of the Open de France. He has also missed the cut in his last two starts this season but a return to a golf course on which he has experienced success seems to have lifted his game
“I feel like it's particularly tough this week,” said McDowell referring to the layout. “The fairways are narrow. The rough is beautifully graded but if you start to miss it, you can count on these strong crosswinds, and you'll pay the ultimate price.
“Having been coming here for years and having some success here, I do stand on some of these tee boxes and feel a level of comfort. When you get a win, you do back to trying to steer it and the fairways become a little looser.”
Two marquee players, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, have made encouraging starts to be at 1 under and just three from the lead, Thomas enjoying playing in Europe again.
“I love the fans over in Europe,” said the World Number Two. “They are so respectful, and they really appreciate good golf shots. Not that the fans in the States don't but it's so much fun going to The Open Championship is hitting a seven-iron or eight-iron to 30 or 40 feet, and they know it's a great shot and I felt a very similar vibe here.
“I'm not too worried about where I'll be after round one. I'm pleased to get the first round under par, especially at a difficult place like this. If the wind keeps up like this, it's going to play hard this afternoon, but I'll be in good shape.”
Brett Rumford leads the Australasians in a share of 15th place and four from the lead but he will rue three dropped shots late in his round after contending for the opening round lead for much of the day.
Brett Rumford leads the Australians.
Ryan Fox who finished 6th in this event last year is at 1 over and the next best of the Australasians while Marcus Fraser, Josh Geary, Sam Brazel and Wade Ormsby are next best at 2 over and six from Dredge’s lead.
The leading three players at week’s end inside the top 12 and not otherwise exempt for the Open Championship earn a place in the field for Carnoustie and currently amongst the leading Australasians after day one only Rumford has a start.
SIGNATURE HOLE: MANLY GOLF CLUB
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