Date: September 26, 2008

Fraser tied for lead

Marcus Fraser shares the lead with Mikael Lundberg at five-under after the opening round of the British Masters. Australian Fraser, 115th on the money list and fully aware that only 115 players keep their cards at the end of the season, went to the turn in 31 early in the day. By holding his position over the back nine the 30-year-old, just back from a trip back home to see his pregnant wife Carlie, set a clubhouse target which only Lundberg, the Swede who won the Russian Open for a second time in July, could match during the afternoon. “I got off to a good start, birdied 2 and 3 and then I hit another birdie at 5 and then birdied 8 and 9, so it was nice to turn in five-under,” Fraser said after his round. “Then just a couple of soft bogeys on 11 and 12, just didn&apost get up-and-down.” “I had a great couple of weeks at home, played with the dog, sit on the couch, a few barbecues, a few beers, and got a little bit of practice in there somewhere! It&aposs always nice to go home and weather is pretty good at the moment. It was nice to go home and see my wife as she&aposs six months pregnant, so nice to see her and how she&aposs coming along. It&aposs all good.” Fraser and Lundberg are a stroke ahead of not only Lee Westwood, but also fellow Englishman Sam Walker, Dane Anders Hansen and Argentina&aposs Rafa Echenique. New Zealand&aposs Michael Campbell was well placed two strokes from the lead after an opening 69. Australian Scott Strange was mid-pack at one-over, with compatriot Richard Green a stroke further back. Peter O&aposMalley was tied for 102nd after a four-over-par round, while Matthew Millar and Kiwi Gareth Paddison are five-over. Graeme McDowell, the only other member (alongside Westwood) of last week&aposs losing Ryder Cup team in Louisville to be playing in the 1.8 million pound event, had a 72, but Colin Montgomerie crashed to an 81 – his worst score in Europe for over four years. The 45-year-old Scot, who pulled out of the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Cologne two weeks ago with a shoulder injury, was paired with Westwood. “He didn&apost have one of his greatest days,” said the Worksop golfer. “But the rough is thick, the course is demanding and if you miss the fairways it can get away from you very easily.” That did not happen to him, though. “I felt a bit jet-lagged over the last four holes and my legs started to go a bit, but everything was pretty good,” he said. “My fitness has a lot to do with that. There are no negatives to being fitter.” As well as wanting to retain the title Westwood is looking to close the gap on Padraig Harrington at the top of the Order of Merit. “It was very special to win it (in 2000) and it would be great to do it again.” Fit-again Thomas Bjorn, meanwhile, ended a 10-week lay-off with a 69, then spoke about the Ryder Cup captaincy. The Dane&aposs view is more important than most because he is now chairman of the players&apos committee which is expected to make a decision early in the new year. First of all, Bjorn ruled himself out. “I&aposm 37. I&aposve got to focus on my playing career. I don&apost think I was ever in the equation,” he said. As for who takes over from Nick Faldo, he said there was no rush to name the man – and that in itself could bring down the odds on Faldo&aposs assistant Jose Maria Olazabal. On Sunday Olazabal said he wanted to be back playing in Wales in 2010, but that is dependent on him recovering both his health and his game. If he continues to struggle for the next few months he might be the preferred choice ahead of Sandy Lyle. “All doors are open for everybody at the moment. We&aposll come up with what we think is the right decision – some people might disagree and some people will agree. That&aposs all we can do,” he said. Bjorn has been out with a shoulder injury since the Scottish Open in early July and admitted he was concerned about things. “It actually took five weeks before I started a little better,” he said. “It just seemed to stay the same no matter what I did.” “I&aposve had a lot of physiotherapy and a lot of rest. All in all I&aposm just glad it&aposs better now – I didn&apost feel anything today.” He turned down the chance to commentate on the Ryder Cup because he thought it might hurt his preparation for this week, but still feared his rustiness might lead to a score in the high 70s. Instead, however, he started with a birdie and went on to find four more. “My short game has always been one of the greatest parts of my game, but it&aposs left me a bit over the last couple of years. It was there today,” he said. Quinn Insurance British Masters, The Belfy Results Round 1 (Par 72) -5: Marcus Fraser (Australia) 67, Mikael Lundberg 67 -4: Rafa Echenique 68, Anders Hansen 68, Sam Walker 68, Marc Warren 68, Lee Westwood 68 -3: Thomas Bjorn 69, Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 69, David Dixon 69, Mikko Ilonen 69, Paul Lawrie 69, Greg Own 69, Jeev Milkha Singh 69 -2: Fredrik Andersson Hed 70, Paul Broadhurst 70, Robert-Jan Derksen 70, Nick Dougherty 70, Michael Jonzol 70, Francesco Molinari 70, Graeme Storm 70, Miles Tunnicliff 70, Simon Wakefield Also: +1: Scott Strange (Australia 73 +2: Richard Green (Australia) 74 +4: Peter O Malley (Australia) 76 +5: Matthew Millar (Australia) 77, Gareth Paddison (New Zealand) 77 +7: Peter Fowler (Australia) 79