McGinley and Stenson Lead Olazabal Lurks


Paul McGinley and Henrik Stenson both went low in Thursdays first round of the Beson and Hedges International Open, as they equaled the course record of 66 at The De Vere Belfrys Brabazon Course.
Their scores have them at 6-under-par through Round One, one stroke better than the defending champion and last weeks winner of the Open de France Jose Maria Olazabal (who, incidentally, ' along with Andrew Coltart ' owned the record by himself prior to Thursday).
Two shots back at 4-under were a host of others, including the European captain for the upcoming Ryder Cup Sam Torrance and Irelands Padraig Harrington, who nearly won here last season, but was instead disqualified entering the final round with a five-shot lead after it was discovered that he signed his first-round scorecard incorrectly.
Despite testing conditions at The Belfry on Thursday ' the round was temporarily put on hold in the early afternoon after thunderstorms rolled through the area ' quite a few players managed to put on the kind of show that is becoming the standard in the new millennium.
McGinley was one of those.
Im really pleased because 66 is a great score around The Belfry, he commented. Ive just got to get more days like today with the putter ' hot ' because that is the difference, even one day a week like this. My 69s and 68s dont really count enough, the standard of golf nowadays is so high, and there are so many guys who can do it.
Another who turned it on Thursday was Stenson. Likewise with McGinley, the 25-year-old Swede gave credit to a well-working flatstick.
I have been working very hard on my putting technique and once you begin to trust it, it is about reading the pace and the line and then knocking it in.
Of course, at times the putter is not needed. Olazabal, playing in Europe for just the third time this 2001 season, saw his round climax at the par-4 11th, when, during a stretch of six holes that saw him make five birdies, he holed out a tricky pitch for one of those red numbers.
I am pleased with the way I played and the way I scored but there were still a couple of mis-hits off the tee, he said. It is still the area I need to improve. I need to get rid of those. I can do it on the range but I have to try and take it into the tournament.
Olazabal was claiming these same problems after he won last week in France. His comments made one wonder just how good the Spaniard might be playing if he were happy with his game.
One thing is certain, however. He is making a strong case for his position on the Ryder Cup. Despite the few tournaments he has played, he is tied for for eighth on the Order of Merit, and may finish in a strong enough position to not have to rely on a wild card pick from captain Torrance.
Speaking of Torrance, the Scottish veteran is not quite ready for the mere business of coaching younger players.
Even though Im Ryder Cup captain, I am still a tournament golfer, he claimed after his round of 68. I dont want just to be out there, I want to be out there doing well. I suppose it is my pride really, but if I didnt think I could still win, I wouldnt be playing.
Full-field scores from the Benson and Hedges International Open