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Belgian golfer Thomas Pieters holds a one shot lead on his return to the sport following a superb first round 64 at the inaugural Celtic Classic in Wales on Thursday.
The 28-year-old, who hasn’t played since the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters last March, showed no sign of rust at the Celtic Manor resort with a seven under par round that included eight birdies and a single bogey.
“I putted well and kept my ball in play, so I didn’t really get myself in trouble”, admitted the first round leader, adding “It was tough pulling clubs sometimes and I put some new grips on which were very slippery, so I was struggling with that all day.”
The four-time European Tour winner, never looked back after dropping his only shot of the day on the second, coming home in 29 to move one shot clear of England’s Toby Tree and Australian Jake McLeod.
Tree also dropped a single shot on the second hole in his six under par round of 65, while McLeod eagled the last to jump in to a share of second place.
The Englishman was satisfied with his opening round in Wales, however, admitting:
“I loved it. It’s a bit different to what we have played the last few weeks – a bit bigger, longer. It’s in great nick. It was a pleasure this morning, good weather, no wind.”
Italian Edoardo Molinari – who starred in Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup win at the Newport venue – is a shot further back on five under par, alongside his fellow countryman Guido Migliozzi, Swede Sebastian Soderberg, Nacho Elvira of Spain, American player Sihwan Kim, Scot Marc Warren and Adrian Meronk of Poland.
Jonathan Caldwell was best of the Irish golfers as he carded a round of 68 to lie four strokes behind the Belgian leader. Cormac Sharvin shot 71 to sit 7 shots behind Pieters. Gavin Moynihan was a further three strokes behind after his opening round of 74, one shot ahead of former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
Round One Lead Scores Only
64 T PIETERS (BEL),
65 J MCLEOD (AUS), T TREE (ENG),
66 N ELVIRA (ESP), S KIM (USA), G MIGLIOZZI (ITA), M WARREN (SCO), A MERONK (POL), E MOLINARI (ITA), S SODERBERG (SWE),
67 L GAGLI (ITA), M SOUTHGATE (ENG), A JOHNSTON (ENG), S HORSFIELD (ENG), T DETRY (BEL), S BROWN (ENG), A RAI (ENG), N COLSAERTS (BEL), W BESSELING (NED), D COUPLAND (ENG), J MORRISON (ENG),
68 C SHINKWIN (ENG), J CATLIN (USA), J SJOHOLM (SWE), B STOW (ENG), M ANTCLIFF (AUS), M JORDAN (ENG), D HORSEY (ENG), S CROCKER (USA), C SYME (SCO), M SIMONSEN (DEN), J SMITH (ENG), J CALDWELL (NIR)
69 F LAPORTA (ITA), O LENGDEN (SWE), R ENOCH (WAL), A KARLSSON (SWE), A OTAEGUI (ESP), J HARDING (RSA), R RAMSAY (SCO), E CUARTERO BLANCO (ESP), M KIEFFER (GER), J SENIOR (ENG), Z LOMBARD (RSA), R FOX (NZL), M LEE (AUS), J SCRIVENER (AUS), S VINCENT (ZIM), S HEISELE (GER),
70 G GREEN (MAS), A QUIROS (ESP), J DONALDSON (WAL), N VON.