Carls­son swings to the front

New Straits Times - - Sport - AFP

WENT­WORTH: Swe­den’s Jo­han Carls­son led the Euro­pean PGA Cham­pi­onship at Went­worth af­ter shoot­ing a first round 66, six­un­der par in the first round on Thurs­day.

Carls­son held a one shot ad­van­tage over Italy’s Francesco Moli­nari, Scot­land’s Scott Jamieson and Ki­radech Aphibarn­rat, from Thai­land, who all handed in 67s.

There were a clus­ter of play­ers a fur­ther shot back on 68 in­clud­ing Bri­tish Open cham­pion Hen­rik Sten­son and his fel­low Swede Alex Noren, the world num­ber 13, as the field en­joyed per­fect scor­ing con­di­tions on a re­vamped West Course with­out rip­ping it to pieces.

Carls­son missed six suc­ces­sive cuts re­cently but found some form at the China Open where he fin­ished 24th and in Si­cily last week where he was 18th.

He had three birdies from the third to help him to an out­ward nine of 30 and came back in 36, one-un­der par, spoil­ing his chance to have a big­ger lead with bo­gey at the par-five 18th.

De­spite his poor form ear­lier this sea­son the 30-year-old has al­ways had one eye on this tour­na­ment — the Euro­pean Tour’s flag­ship event.

“This week is a big week and I’ve al­ways had that goal in mind,” he said af­ter his round.

“This is go­ing to be a tour­na­ment to get it around no mat­ter what; play with what you have, and that’s what I did.

“I didn’t try to hit any su­per fancy shots. I just played with what I had and I think that was the key to suc­cess, what I’ve been do­ing kind of into this tour­na­ment.”

Aphibarn­rat was out in 31 and held his back nine to­gether whilst Moli­nari made the most of the two fin­ish­ing par-5s, record­ing birdies at both.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Chris Wood was round in 72, level par, and joked he would like to see the new greens re­placed by the ones from last year.

Eng­land’s Ian Poul­ter, who ap­peared re­ju­ve­nated af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the Play­ers’ Cham­pi­onship, needs a high fin­ish here to boost his chances of mak­ing next month’s US Open.

But he is up against it af­ter a 76, four-over par, which in­cluded a soli­tary birdie.

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