Date: September 21, 2007

Aussies languish at British Matsers

Sweden&aposs Martin Erlandsson equalled the lowest round ever seen at The Belfry on Thursday – long after most of the crowd had gone home. The 33-year-old, yet to win on the European Tour 10 years after turning professional, played his final seven holes at the British Masters in an amazing seven under par for an inward 29, a nine-under 63 and a two-stroke lead over compatriot Jarmo Sandelin and South African Richard Sterne. It was tough going for the Aussies in the draw with just Marcus Fraser and Andrew Tampion finishing in the black. The pair both carded two-under rounds of 70 while Matthew Millar and Peter O&aposMalley were three shots further back at one over. Only two under after 11 holes, Erlandsson, with a best finish of second in the 2005 Wales Open, eagled the long third, birdied the 442-yard next and then in the fading light closed with four more birdies thanks to putts of 14, 25, 10 and 10 feet. “That&aposs definitely the toughest stretch, so I&aposm really pleased,” he said. “It has got to be the best round of my career. I don&apost think I missed a single shot. I was really spot-on with my swing.” It matched the score of Eamonn Darcy back in 1983, but the Brabazon course has been lengthened since then and so Erlandsson&aposs effort will stand as a new course record on its own in the eyes of the European Tour. “My card is secure for this year (he was third in the Johnnie Walker Championship earlier this month), so it&aposs a very different game. “I&aposm more relaxed and can enjoy playing. It&aposs a good feeling.” Sandelin was joint runner-up in the event last year, but is relieved just to be playing this week. Unlike Erlandsson, Sandelin is fighting to keep his card. At 141st on the money list he needs to climb into the top 115. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Rory McIlroy began his professional career with a bogey-free 69, but Walker Cup team-mate Lloyd Saltman, also making his tour debut as a pro, managed only a 75. Not even Tiger Woods can say he chipped in twice in his first three holes as a professional, but that was the way it started for McIlroy. “If I can play the way I did today there&aposs no reason why I wouldn&apost think I can be up there going into Sunday,” he said. “I&aposm just going along for the ride, just playing golf and answering a few questions, that&aposs about it.” In the spotlight ever since he began The Open with a bogey-free 68 in July – it put him in third place – McIlroy had spoken to former amateur rival Oliver Fisher about what life on tour was like. “He just said these guys aren&apost much better than we are,” commented the former Irish and European champion. “They just know how to get it around the course and how to try to put some good numbers on the scorecard and that&aposs about it.” Forced to play sideways and backwards out of a pot bunker down the 11th – it was put there to counter the big hitting of Woods at the 2002 Ryder Cup – McIlroy saved par with a 40-foot chip-in, then did it again from 30 feet for birdie at the next. A chip to four feet on the long 17th, his eighth, and then a 30-foot putt at the sixth which he reckoned was heading for a bunker if it had not gone in brought him his other birdies. Six members of last year&aposs European Ryder Cup team are in the field and the only one to improve on McIlroy&aposs score was Lee Westwood with a 68. Colin Montgomerie, three over after seven, came back with five birdies for a 70, the same as Paul McGinley, while Robert Karlsson was one worse, David Howell 72 and Darren Clarke, like Howell struggling all year, a 74 including double bogeys on the long 15th and the 442-yard fourth. First Round of the Quinn Direct British Masters: -9 Martin Erlandsson 63 -7 Jarmo Sandelin 65, Richard Sterne 65 -6 Raphael Jacquelin 66, Soren Kjeldsen 66 -5 Fredrik Andersson Hed 67, Simon Khan 67, Henrik Nystrom 67, Ian Poulter 67 -4 Phillip Archer 68, Stephen Dodd 68, Sandy Lyle 68, Francesco Molinari 68, Lee Westwood 68 -3 Robert-Jan Derksen 69, Kenneth Ferrie 69, Stephen Gallacher 69, Ignacio Garrido 69, Peter Hanson 69, Mikko Ilonen 69, Rory McIlroy 69, Louis Oosthuizen 69, Zane Scotland 69, Marcel Siem 69, Jean van de Velde 69 also: -2 Marcus Fraser (Australia) 70, Andrew Tampion (Australia) 70 +1 Matthew Millar (Australia) 73, Peter O&aposMalley (Australia) 73, Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 73 +4 Terry Price (Australia) 76