NEWLY-crowned BMW PGA Championship winner Matteo Manassero picked up where he left off last weekend with an impressive opening 66 at the Nordea Masters in Stockholm.
The 20-year-old Italian, who on Sunday became the youngest victor of the European Tour’s flagship event, carded a six-under round to share the first-round lead with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.
With all the leading scorers having teed off in the morning, Manassero, starting at the tenth, took full advantage with six successive birdies from the off.
Par-bogey-par took him to the turn in 31, but his second nine was slightly less eventful, although he did hole a ten-foot putt on the first for birdie and brilliant chips at the next two holes saved par, with one dropped shot and another birdie to follow in his remaining six holes.
Nevertheless he was more than happy with his day’s work.He said: “I’ve never started that well – it was a great start.
“I was making putts and to start like that was strange because I’m not used to it. I’ve been tired [after winning a three-man play-off at Wentworth] but I woke up and I felt good. It’s a tough course when the wind picks up so I think every afternoon is going to be hard.” Larrazabal has also been in good form recently, although his has been more about consistency than victories with five top-12 finishes in his last six starts.
He too began on the back nine and four birdies and added a further three, dropping only one shot at the 208-yard seventh, to earn a share of the lead.
“I played great, I was five under after ten,” the 30-year-old told europeantour.com. “I made birdies on the par fives and held my score.
“It wasn’t easy, the golf course played okay this morning, but you can make a double or triple bogey. I played safe when I had to and more aggressive when I could.”
Just one shot behind were a group comprising Swedes Fredrik Andersson Hed and Alex Noren – the 2011 winner – Welshman Jamie Donaldson and English duo Simon Wakefield and Chris Lloyd.
Among the Scots in the field, Helensburgh’s Gary Orr is two strokes off the lead with 68, Aberdeen’s Richie Ramsay is two under par after a 70, along with fellow Granite City man Paul Lawrie, while Kirkcaldy’s Peter Whiteford had a 71 along with Edinburgh’s David Drysdale.
Kincardine’s Callum McAulay had a 73 and Glasgow’s Scott Jamieson endured a day to forget with a 77.