Bradley Dredge got the better of windy conditions and a star-studded field at Le Golf National as he ended the first round of the Open de France with the outright lead.
Open de France
Dredge fired a four-under 67 in slightly easier conditions for the morning wave of starters on a day when only 14 of the 159-man field managed to get under the card, with Shane Lowry the only player in red numbers from the afternoon groups.
Nobody was able to hand in a bogey-free card during the first round, and Dredge was the only player to drop only one shot, while the Welshman also made five birdies to edge one ahead of two-time champion Graeme McDowell and Andy Sullivan.
McDowell carded four birdies on the back nine before dropping his second shot of the round at the first, although he then got back to four under with consecutive birdies at the second and third.
But the former US Open champion, who has finished T-12 and T-5 in his last two European Tour starts, then bogeyed four and seven before ending his day on a positive note with a birdie at the ninth.
“I’m very pleased, especially the way I played the first dozen holes,” said McDowell, who needs a strong week at one of his favourite venues in order to avoid having to go through Open qualifying on Monday.
“I made two clumsy errors on the greens from 12 and 15 feet where I three-whacked them both. But to be making seven birdies on the golf course in the conditions we had today, I felt like the first nine holes we got it reasonably benign in comparison.
“I feel like it’s particularly tough this week. The fairways are narrow and the rough is beautifully graded, but if you start to miss it, you can count on these strong crosswinds, and you’ll pay the ultimate price.
“Having been coming here for years and having some success here, I do stand on some of these tee boxes and feel a level of comfort. When you get a win, you do go back to trying to steer it and the fairways become a little looser.”
Thomas Pieters enhanced his credentials for a second Ryder Cup appearance after he recovered from a back-nine 36 with three birdies over a clean front half which salvaged a 69, while Lowry, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood were among a group of eight players on one under.
Ian Poulter managed to return a 72 despite making two double-bogeys in three holes, the veteran Englishman also making five birdies as he joined the likes of Sergio Garcia and in-form Thorbjorn Olesen on one over par.
Former Masters champion Danny Willett opened with a 73, while defending champion Tommy Fleetwood made only one birdie against two bogeys and one double-bogey in a 74 that left him seven adrift of the leader.
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June 29, 2018, 9:30am
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