Foster sets pace at Gleneagles

2011-08-25 21:08

Gleneagles - England's Mark Foster rolled in eight birdies for a 6-under 66 on Thursday to take an early lead in the first round of the Johnnie Walker Championship at a foggy Gleneagles.

Playing only his second tournament in seven weeks, Foster picked up seven birdies in his opening 11 holes - including four in a row from No. 11 - before a couple of bogeys on his back nine. He finished a shot clear of Spain's Ignacio Garrido in central Scotland.

Foster has held the lead, or a share of the lead, on the final day of three tournaments this season - the French Open, the BMW International Open and the Scottish Open - but failed to break a long title drought that stretches back to 2003.

However, he quickly mastered the greens on the PGA Centenary course that will host the Ryder Cup in 2014, putting himself in a great early position.

"That could have been a special first nine holes because I three-putted the par-5 No. 16," said Foster, who is likely to make the Britain & Ireland team for next month's Vivendi Seve Trophy in Paris.

"I just have a bit more belief in myself this year. It sounds strange but I have stopped trying to win. I've stopped pitching up on a Tuesday thinking about winning - I just do my best for the week."

The start of play was delayed by more than 2½ hours because of thick fog, with early starters not able to see further than 50 yards (meters).

That wasn't the only hindrance to the field.

Foster and compatriot Ross Fisher both said swarms of wasps were causing additional problems for players.

"Two of the three in our group had to back off before every shot," he said. "One wasp was on my ball on my birdie putt on No 12. I hit it anyway."

Garrido, playing in the group in front of Foster and also starting at No 10, made six birdies in a solid round to lie a stroke ahead of Ireland's Peter Lawrie, who was on his own in third place on 4 under.

Italy's Francesco Molinari - at No 22, the highest-ranked player in the 156-man field - was among a large group on 2-under. His older brother, Edoardo Molinari, was among the afternoon starters as he began the defense of his title.

Fisher, who along with the Molinari brothers is the other 2010 Ryder Cup star competing, had one of the more eventful rounds of the day.

Hindered by a triple-bogey eight at the long No 16, Fisher - who started at No 10 - turned in 40 but came home in 31 to finish on 1-under.

"I played one bad shot all round but I was 5-over after seven holes," said the 31-year-old Englishman. "If you'd have told me on No 17 that I'd shoot 1-under, I'd have thought you were having a laugh."

England's Nick Dougherty, at one time regarded among the brightest hopes in British golf, is bidding to make the cut for the first time in 21 events but a quadruple-bogey seven at the short No 6 didn't help his cause after a good start.

Dougherty, who is yet to make any money from golf this season and is in danger of losing his European Tour playing rights, finished on 4-over - 10 shots off the pace.

Leading scores on Thursday from the Johnnie Walker Championship at the par-72 PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles:

Partial First Round
51 players to finish round early Friday

Mark Foster, England     30-36—66
Ignacio Garrido, Spain     33-34—67
Tano Goya, Argentina     33-34—67
Peter Lawrie, Ireland     32-36—68
Thomas Bjorn, Denmark     35-33—68
Felipe Aguilar, Chile     32-36—68
Thomas Norret, Denmark     35-34—69
Chris Wood, England     34-35—69
Robert Coles, England     32-37—69
Richard McEvoy, England     35-34—69
Richard Bland, England     37-32—69
Victor Dubuisson, France     34-35—69
John Parry, England     35-34—69
Lorenzo Gagli, Italy     33-36—69
Raphael Jacquelin, France     36-33—69

Other scores:   

Francesco Molinari, Italy     37-33—70
Simon Dyson, England     33-37—70
Ross Fisher, England     40-31—71
Oliver Fisher, England     36-36—72
Edoardo Molinari, Italy     38-36—74