MALAGA, Spain – Defending champion Soren Kjeldsen and 1999 British Open winner Paul Lawrie shared the lead Thursday at the Andalucia Open after each shot a 5-under 65 in the opening round.
Kjeldsen made seven birdies around the Parador Golf Course on the Costa Del Sol in a return to form following a dip toward the end of 2009 after the Dane became embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with his former manager.
“My former manager owed me several hundred thousand euros and when I asked him for it, I discovered all the money had been spent,” Kjeldsen said. “It was a lot of money and it was a big distraction from my golf, so it’s nice to shoot low again.”
Ranked 35th in the world at the start of the year, Kjeldsen has secured a place to play in The Masters next month. But he has since slipped to 51st and failed to join many fellow Europeans warming up for the first major of 2010 at Bay Hill this week.
“I would have like to have played Bay Hill but at the same time I also wanted to defend the Andalucian Open title, which I won last year,” Kjeldsen said. “So dropping out to 51st made my mind up for me and I am glad I came here to Spain. In the end, if you are playing well in the buildup to a major it doesn’t matter whether you do it in Spain or America.”
Lawrie recently returned to coach Adam Hunter, with whom the Scot worked during his Open victory at Carnoustie and who has recently been diagnosed with leukaemia.
“That should help cheer him up a bit,” Lawrie said of his opening round.
A group of eight players are a stroke behind.