Graeme McDowell makes steady start as Paul Waring takes first round lead in France
ENGLAND'S Paul Waring left some of Europe’s biggest names trailing in his wake to claim the lead after the first round of the £5.4m HNA Open de France.
Waring, who is competing this season on a medical exemption due to ongoing back problems which restricted him to four starts in 2016, carded seven birdies in a flawless opening 64 at Le Golf National, venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
That left the former English Amateur champion two shots clear of Thomas Pieters, Alexander Bjork and qualifying school winner Nathan Kimsey, with Tommy Fleetwood part of a three-strong group on four under.
Pieters, who won a record four points from five matches on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine, carded six birdies and a solitary bogey in his 66 after benefiting from a putting lesson from the coach of fellow Belgian Thomas Detry.
“I did some good work on Sunday with Thomas Detry’s putting coach and he made a bunch of putts last week so I figured he’s good,” said Pieters (below).
“It was about visualising and I definitely saw the ball go in the hole before I hit it and hit plenty of good putts. I’ve been a feel putter my whole life and to get one little tip on seeing those putts go in really helped for me.
“Any time I hit a green today I felt like I had a good chance to make birdie so I’m very happy.”
Kimsey, who won the qualifying school last year after coming through all three stages, recovered from a bogey on his opening hole – the 10th – to card five birdies in the next six on his way to a 66, which matched Bjork’s flawless effort.
“It’s definitely up there as one of the best rounds of the season,” said Kimsey, who has missed the cut in nine of his 13 events in 2017.
“I’ve watched a lot on TV over the years, so obviously sort of knew the reputation of the golf course and how tough it was.”
Fleetwood, who followed his fourth place in the US Open with a tie for sixth in last week’s BMW International Open, carded four birdies in a flawless 67 to share fifth with Peter Uihlein and Germany’s Florian Fritsch.
The 26-year-old from Southport, who won his second European Tour title in Abu Dhabi in January, was a lowly 188th in the world rankings last September, but has reaped the rewards of returning to his former coach Alan Thompson, who was rewarded with an emotional first trip to the Masters in April.
“I think it’s the one thing that he’s always wanted to do,” said Fleetwood, who is now ranked 21st.
“It was a big deal. We drove in on Sunday or Monday morning and Magnolia Lane didn’t really bother him. We were just chatting away and then as soon as we got out of the car he said ‘You’re going to have to leave me alone’ and went off somewhere just to have a moment to himself.
“He’s been great for me, we’ve been doing really good work and my swing’s in the best place it’s ever been.”
Former champions Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell were three off the pace after rounds of 69, while Jon Rahm birdied his final hole to finish one-under.
Wicklow’s Paul Dunne is also one-under after his opening round of 70, but Shane Lowry dropped five shots in his last six holes to sign for a 74.
Darren Clarke slumped to a 13-over 84 which included a nine at the 18th.
Collated first round scores in the European Tour HNA Open de France, Le Golf National, Paris, France
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 71):
64 Paul Waring
66 Alexander Bjork (Swe), Nathan Kimsey, Thomas Pieters (Bel)
67 Peter Uihlein (USA), Tommy Fleetwood, Florian Fritsch (Ger)
68 Adrien Saddier (Fra), Andy Sullivan, Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Rikard Karlberg (Swe), George Coetzee (Rsa), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa)
69 Joost Luiten (Ned), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Yan-wei Liu (Chn), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Scott Hend (Aus), Duncan Stewart, Alexander Levy (Fra), Bradley Dredge, Graeme McDowell, Alex Noren (Swe), Callum Shinkwin, Gary Stal (Fra), Marcel Siem (Ger), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Fabrizio Zanotti (Par), Nino Bertasio (Ita), Clement Berardo (Fra)
70 Ross Fisher, Daniel Im (USA), Joakim Lagergren (Swe), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Simon Dyson, Robert Karlsson (Swe), Brett Rumford (Aus), David Drysdale, Niclas Fasth (Swe), Jon Rahm (Spa), Paul Dunne, Jordan Smith, Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut)
71 Marcus Armitage, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Jens Fahrbring (Swe), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Thomas Linard (Fra), Graeme Storm, Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Robert Rock, Eddie Pepperell, Trevor Fisher Jnr (Rsa), Julien Quesne (Fra), Lee Westwood, Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Damien Perrier (Fra), Clement Sordet (Fra), Julien Guerrier (Fra), Ashley Chesters, Haotong Li (Chn), Justin Walters (Rsa)
72 Andrew Johnston, Matt Wallace, Jaco Van Zyl (Rsa), Danny Willett, Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Peter Hanson (Swe), Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Thomas Detry (Bel), Nacho Elvira (Spa), Soomin Lee (Kor), Hennie Otto (Rsa), Chris Wood, Daniel Brooks, Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Stuart Manley, Pep Angles (Spa), Edouard Dubois (Fra), Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Chris Paisley, James Morrison, Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Stephen Gallacher, Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Chris Hanson, Jamie Donaldson, Ian Poulter, Mark Foster, Russell Knox
73 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Lasse Jensen (Den), Shih-Chang Chan (Tpe), Carlos Pigem (Spa), Oliver Fisher, Jason Scrivener (Aus), Jose-Filipe Lima (Por), Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spa), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Gregory Havret (Fra), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Magnus A Carlsson (Swe), David Howell, Ryan Fox (Nzl), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Andrew Dodt (Aus), Romain Langasque (Fra), Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Sam Walker, Sebastien Gros (Fra), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Bernd Ritthammer (Ger), Richard Sterne (Rsa)
74 Richard Bland, Joel Stalter (Fra), Richie Ramsay, Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Jorge Campillo (Spa), Alvaro Quiros (Spa), Scott Jamieson, Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Alexander Knappe (Ger)
75 Dean Burmester (Rsa), Romain Wattel (Fra), Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Ashun Wu (Chn), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Johan Carlsson (Swe)
76 Sebastian Heisele (Ger), David Lipsky (USA), Eduardo De La Riva (Spa), Matthew Southgate, Matthew Fitzpatrick
77 Marc Warren, Andres Romero (Arg), Lee Slattery, Paul Peterson (USA), Renato Paratore (Ita)
78 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Sam Brazel (Aus)
79 Benjamin Hebert (Fra)
81 Wade Ormsby (Aus)
84 Darren Clarke