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Argentina’s José Coceres took the clubhouse lead on -8 after an unblemished round of 65. Starting on the 10th tee he would make three birdies before the turn, with five more to come on his way back in.
“In the first place I’m very happy, very happy with the form. The way I played with a lot of focus, it was good golf. So, when you’re playing good golf combined with a golf course that I love, it gives me a lot of confidence out here.
“Last week I found a new feel that is feeling really good, something I’m working on every day and I continue working on this. For this reason, I believe I’ve put down a good score, I just need to keep it going until the end of the week.
“It’s a great course and a challenge when the wind gets up like it is today, but to be honest I felt very comfortable in the wind, I just need to keep it going for the next two days.”
Patrik Sjöland would also register a bogey free round on the South Course. The Swede, who is good friends with last year’s runner-up Michael Jonzon, signed for a 67 to sit two shots off the lead after the opening round.
“It thought it was pretty tough, there were a lot of crosswinds, but today I was driving the ball nicely and played the par 5’s very good, so that helps to a good score. I hit some really nice iron shots, that helps a lot too – bogey free six under par, I am very pleased.
It’s a solid base to start the week, with the wind this morning it felt like it was dying down a bit out there for a while but then it picked up again. It’s really tricky especially on the back nine.
“I feel like my driving is good, my putting is good and all I need to do is hit some good iron shots in as well. If I can drive it well on the par 5’s then they’re pretty reachable almost all of them, so that’s where you’ve got to try to take advantage.”
Simon Brown was taking advantage of the par 5’s where he could, making birdies on 3 of the par 5’s on the course. The Englishman was 6-under for his round before back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 dented his progress, although he will go into day 2 only 3 shots back from Coceres.
Van Phillips was five under par to the turn, having started on the 1st tee. He would end the day with a round of 69 (-4) after just one birdie and two bogeys on the back nine, but sits in a good position now going into the second round.
“It was tough, a tough wind, crosswinds almost every hole which were a good club or club-and-a-half at times.
“I just hit so many good shots and obviously if you execute perfectly it looks easy, but the back nine showed me that it wasn’t! I’ve just played the same, I’ve been playing very solid all year and just the odd hole here and there, the fields are so strong that you have a couple of bad holes in three days and you drop 30 places.
“I’ve played really solid, I left loads out there, my putting wasn’t great so it is doable, I can see how it happened – I could have shot 8 under myself if I’d just knocked a few more putts in, but it’s a good foundation to start the week.”
On the Alliance Series leader board, Coceres leads again – alongside his amateur playing partner Will Ferguson. The pair of them combined for a score of -12 to lead by a single shot over Keith Horne and his amateur partner Tom Harris.
The MCB Road to Mauritius race is into the final three events and rankings leader Peter Baker, also our tournament host at La Manga, began with an over-par round. The Englishman who has won three times this season carded a round of 75 (+2) having made five bogeys and three birdies.
His nearest rival to the season-long honours, Adilson Da Silva, enjoyed a better day – knowing he really need to better Baker’s result here this week. The Brazilian opened with a round of 70 to sit at -3 going into day two.