MADRID (Reuters) - Scotland’s Marc Warren and Irishman Paul Dunne finished strongly to lead the Spanish Open by one shot ahead of a group of 11 players including local favourite Jon Rahm and Spanish amateur Victor Pastor after the first round on Thursday.
Warren racked up five birdies in the last seven holes to finish on six-under par and seemed likely to stand alone at the top of the leaderboard as heavy rain arrived late in the afternoon but Dunne was unperturbed and finished with an eagle.
“Overall, it was really solid tee to green,” said Warren. “I putted really well today - pace was really good. The putts that missed I didn’t leave myself much to do and the good putts always looked like they had a chance of going in.”
Dunne had a birdie-bogey start and picked up another shot on the fifth before birdies at the 11th and 13th before he holed a good putt from the fringe on the 16th followed by an eagle.
“I find the greens quite tricky to read out there, especially on the front nine, so it was nice to get a couple of putts go in on the back nine and give myself a climb up the leaderboard,” he said.
Rahm and Pastor cheered the crowd as they finished at five-under, while England’s Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston was in a group on four-under with 40 players within three shots of the lead.
Basque Country native Rahm is the main attraction at the tournament after coming fourth at the Masters last week. He is looking to make amends for his late slip up in Augusta, when he blew his lead by finding the water on the 15th on the final day.
Rahm had a birdie at the 13th before a bogey at the next hole but signed off on a high with an eagle at the 18th, joining compatriot Pastor on five-under.
"To be honest, I played a lot better than I expected, especially off the tee," Rahm told the European Tour website www.europeantour.com.
“My driver was really good today - the driver alone set up two birdies, on 13 and on seven. Things like that are obviously a bonus. Too bad I couldn’t make a couple of putts but I guess it’s happening to everyone, the greens are not easy to read.”
Pastor is ranked 113th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and was making his first appearance on the European Tour, but he flew up the leaderboard with an eagle at 10th the before making birdies at the 13th and 18th.
“It is a good start in a great tournament,” Pastor said. “As an amateur it is a bit distressing because you don’t play your course or tournament but it feels good. My golf was good so I’m really happy.”
The Spanish Open was one of the most prestigious tournaments on the European Tour but took a one year sabbatical last year and switched courses from Valderrama in Andalusia to the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris and Christian Radnedge