Date: May 02, 2008

Stars struggle in Spain

The sun shone, but the big names did not in the opening round of the Spanish Open in Seville on Friday morning. Leader by one after a seven-under-par 65 was Swede Martin Erlandsson, only 345th in the world, and his two closest challengers were Spaniards Ignacio Garrido and Jordi Garcia, respectively ranked 350th and 1102nd. Peter Fowler and Matthew Millar are the best-placed Aussies on two under in a tie for 16th position after both of them carded rounds of 70. Recently married Colin Montgomerie, returning after a five-week lay-off, hit back from two opening bogeys to shoot 70 and join the Australian pair in equal 16th spot, but last week&aposs winner Darren Clarke had to settle for a 72 – where joined Aussie Scott Barr in a tie for 48th position – and American John Daly, on a two-week trip to Europe, could do no better than 75. Montgomerie, with a target of two wins in the next two months to make his presence felt in the race for Ryder Cup places, said: “My job is to get back in the team and I am nowhere near yet.” Golf may be his job, but the Scot revealed the sport that most excites him is actually cricket. “It&aposs my son Cameron&aposs 10th birthday today and he loves his cricket just like me. It&aposs my favourite game – forget this lark!” Newly-wedded bliss did not stop him displaying his displeasure when a spectator stood in the wrong place during his round, however. Montgomerie stared, but the man stared back and after quite some time it was actually the eight-time European number one who yielded and turned his focus back to his next shot. Clarke, who ended two-and-a-half years without a victory in Shanghai on Sunday, blamed mental fatigue and one treacherous green for his score. “I didn&apost get much sleep again – last week took more out of me than I realised,” said the 39-year-old Ulsterman. “Mentally, I was not at the races. The game&aposs fine, but my head&aposs tired – I made some poor decisions.” The green in question was the short 17th, where Clarke three-putted for bogey just after seeing Thomas Levet four-putt for a triple-bogey six. “It&aposs like glass and it&aposs on a hill. They&aposve destroyed the green,” said the Frenchman – winner himself of the Andalucian Open only five weeks ago – after dropping two more strokes on the last and signing for a 79. Clarke added: “It&aposs dead – just pathetic really.” Playing partner Daly has not had a top-10 finish for three years in crashing to 595th on the world rankings and the former Open champion felt like a broken record when he commented: “I hit it good, but putted bad again.” “It&aposs the same stuff. I&aposve had two years of this. I&aposm getting nothing out of it and it&aposs frustrating.” Paul McGinley, another back from China, needed two birdies in the last three holes just to return a 74, the same score as South African Charl Schwartzel, who is trying to become the first player to make a successful defence of the title since Max Faulkner in 1953. Erlandsson did not make the journey out to the Far East because he suffers so badly from jetlag and that paid dividends when he grabbed seven birdies – finishing with three in a row. The 34-year-old Malmo golfer needed four attempts to earn a Tour card and after 124 events is still searching for his first victory. Erlandsson&aposs best finish was the 2005 Wales Open, where he claimed joint second spot behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, but the closest he has come was last season&aposs Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. A superb 66 made him the clubhouse leader for a long time on the final day, but in the end he had to settle for third place a shot behind Marc Warren and play-off loser Simon Wakefield. Garrido was a member of Europe&aposs 1997 Ryder Cup side and won the Tour&aposs PGA Championship five years ago, but he has had only six top-10 finishes since then. Garcia, like famous namesake Sergio, is from Castellon and he eagled the 517-yard 13th in his 66. First Round Scores from the Spain Open, Real Club de Golf de Sevilla -7: Martin Erlandsson 65 -6: Jordi Garcia 66, Ignacio Garrido 66 -5: Gary Clark 67, Soren Hansen 68 -4: Peter Lawrie 68, Henrik Nystrom 68, Stevn O Hara 68, Carlos Rodiles 68, Peter Whiteford 68 -3: Peter Baker 69, Francios Delamontagne 69, Alfredo Garcia-Heredia 69, Manuel Quiros 69, Robert Rock 69 -2: Frederik Hed Andersson 70, Alejandro Canizares 70, Joes Manuel Carriles 70, Mark Foster 70, Peter Fowler (Australia) 70 Also: Par: Scott Barr (Australia) 72 -2 Matthew Millar (Australia) 70 +5: Terry Pilkadaris (Australia) 77 +4 Steve Alker (New Zealand) 76 +1: Gareth Paddison (New Zealand) 73