European Tour

Carlsson sets pace with Stenson lurking

2017-05-25 22:27
Johan Carlsson (Getty Images)

Wentworth - Sweden's Johan Carlsson leads the European PGA Championship at Wentworth after shooting a first round 66, six-under par in the first round on Thursday.

Carlsson holds a one shot advantage over Italy's Francesco Molinari, Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, from Thailand, who all handed in 67s.

There were a cluster of players a further shot back on 68 including Open champion Henrik Stenson and his fellow Swede Alex Noren, the world No 13, as the field enjoyed perfect scoring conditions on a revamped West Course without ripping it to pieces.

Carlsson missed six successive cuts recently but found some form at the China Open where he finished 24th and in Sicily last week where he was 18th.

He had three birdies from the third to help him to an outward nine of 30 and came back in 36, one-under par, spoiling his chance to have a bigger lead with bogey at the par-5 18th.

Despite his poor form earlier this season the 30-year-old has always had one eye on this tournament - the European Tour's flagship event.

"This week is a big week and I've always had that goal in mind," he said after his round.

"This is going to be a tournament to get it around no matter what; play with what you have, and that's what I did.

"I didn't try to hit any super fancy shots. I just played with what I had and I think that was the key to success, what I've been doing kind of into this tournament."

Aphibarnrat was out in 31 and held his back nine together whilst Molinari made the most of the two finishing par-5s, recording birdies at both.

Stenson, who won the British Open at Troon last summer, missed three cuts in the United States before finishing tied for 16th at the Players' Championship at Sawgrass and did not get his round going until the back nine.

He was level par going out before racking up four birdies coming home to get to within two shots of his countryman Carlsson.

Another on four-under par was Ireland's Shane Lowry along with Welshman Bradley Dredge and Italy's Nino Bertasio and South African Branden Grace.

Defending champion Chris Wood was round in 72, level par, and joked he would like to see the new greens replaced by the ones from last year.

Four of the putting surfaces have been rebuilt, and five modified, after complaints from the players but Wood would have preferred it if the organisers had stuck with what they had.

"I wish I could take them up and put the old ones back," he said.

"I didn't have any confidence from inside four or five feet. But you can't blame the greens - I suppose it's just a case of me getting used to them."

England's Ian Poulter, who appeared rejuvenated after finishing second in the Players' Championship, needs a high finish here to boost his chances of making next month's US Open.

But he is up against it after a 76, four-over par, which included a solitary birdie.

Leading scores from the first round of the European PGA Championship here at Wentworth on Thursday (GBR and IRL unless stated, par 72)

66 - Johan Carlsson (SWE)

67 - Francesco Molinari (ITA), Scott Jamieson (SCO), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA),

68 - Shane Lowry, Bradley Dredge, Nino Bertasio (ITA), Ross Fisher, Graeme Storm, Henrik Stenson (SWE), Thomas Pieters (BEL), Branden Grace (RSA), Alex Noren (SWE)

69 - Eduardo De La Riva (ESP), Tyrell Hatton, Richard Sterne (RSA), Dean Burmester (RSA), Li Haotong (CHN), Richie Ramsay

70 - Mikko Ilonen (FIN), Florian Fritsch (GER), Oliver Fisher, An Byeong Hun (KOR), Peter Hanson (SWE), Wang Jeunghun (KOR), Maximilian Kieffer (GER), Daniel Brooks, Lee Westwood, Andrew Dodt (AUS), Alexander Bjork(SWE)

Selected

71 - Ernie Els (RSA), Jaco van Zyl (RSA)

72 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Justin Rose (ENG), Danny Willett (ENG), Chris Wood (ENG)

73 - SSP Chawrasia (IND)

74 - Peter Uihlein (USA)

75 - Luke Donald (ENG)

76 - Ian Poulter (ENG), Brandon Stone (RSA), Haydn Porteous (RSA)

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