Date: May 11, 2007

Zions a surprise leader

Australian journeyman Matthew Zions is a surprise leader after the opening round of the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia. Zions fired a blistering seven-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead into the second round over Spaniard Alejandro Canizares with five players – including Swede Joakim Haeggman – a further shot back at five-under. In one of the more bizarre incidents ever seen on a golf course, Haeggman survived an attack from an angry goose on the 18th hole when he was set upon and forced to defend himself in extraordinary fashion. “I slapped him right in the face!” the Swede told PA Sport. “He wanted to have a go at me so I had no choice.” “It&aposs the first time I&aposve ever had to slap a goose on a golf course.” Haeggman maintained his composure to save par from the back of the green on his way to an opening 67. Zions is one of just six players to have earned his card by coming through all three stages of the qualifying school last year, and is based in Denver, Colorado where he attended university. “It was a fun putting day,” said the 28-year-old. “It&aposs been a cause of frustration in the last few events, I&aposve been spending a lot of time over my putts, thinking too much about it.” “But today I felt comfortable, didn&apost take too long and the putts were going in.” “For the last three years I tried to get my card on the US Tour but never made it past stage two of the qualifying, so thought I&aposd come over here and give it a go.” “I needed to two-putt from about 100ft on the final hole at St Annes Old Links to make it through the first stage. The green is about 48 yards long and I won&apost forget that hole in a hurry.” Fellow Aussie Matthew Millar is also in contention at four-under, while Simon Nash and Terry Pilkadaris are at one-under. Haeggman carded seven birdies and two bogeys while playing partners Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez – whose company is staging the event – recorded rounds of 71 and 72 respectively. For Bjorn, a 71 was a welcome return after doubts about his form and fitness. The Dane had missed the cut in two of his last three events since an encouraging 11th place in the WGC CA Championship in Miami in March, and then injured his wrist in a fall while giving a television interview at home in Wentworth. The cast was only taken off on Saturday and the 36-year-old had just this week to find some form ahead of the defence of his Irish Open title next week. “I played really well apart from two bad drives on the first and second,” said Bjorn, who recorded four birdies, one bogey and one double bogey. “I also three-putted the last when I got a bit greedy but there was a lot of good golf out there today.” “The wrist was a little bit stiff this morning but I need to get it warm this week because I&aposm not sure it&aposs going to be so warm next week.” First round results from the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia -7: Matthew Zions (Australia) 65 -6: Alejandro Canizares (Spain) 66 -5: Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spain) 67, Chris Gane (England) 67, Joakim Haeggman (Sweden) 67, Gary Lockerbie (England) 67, Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) 67 -4: Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium) 68, Eduardo De La Riva (Spain) 68, David Griffiths (England) 68, Matthew Millar (Australia) 68, Jamie Spence (England) 68 Also: -1: Simon Nash (Australia) 71, Terry Pilkadaris (Australia) 71 E: Scott Strange (Australia) 72 +1: Steve Alker (New Zealand) 73, Peter Fowler (Australia) 73, Wade Ormsby (Australia) 73, Terry Price (Australia) 73 +2: David Bransdon (Australia) 74 +3: Andrew Tampion (Australia) 75