South Africa’s Keith Horne takes clubhouse lead at Wales Open

2011-06-03 00:00

NEWPORT — South African journeyman Keith Horne took the clubhouse lead in the opening round of the Wales Open yesterday, making birdies on five of the last eight holes to shoot a s-under 64 at Celtic Manor.

Horne has never won in 99 tournaments on the European Tour since 2000, but only turned professional five years ago. He took just 30 strokes on the back nine of the course where Europe reclaimed the Ryder Cup last year.

The player whose winning point gave Europe the trophy, defending champion Graeme McDowell, eagled the par-four No. 15 to join Damien McGrane of Ireland in shooting a 67.

“Overall, I’m very happy with the way I played. The course is running pretty fast and firm, so it’s playing reasonably short,” said McDowell, who bogeyed the hole where his 20-foot putt clinched victory over Hunter Mahan last October.

“The greens are not as good as I’ve seen them here at Celtic Manor. The greens are very receptive and very soft and there’s quite a lot of growth on them, so they are tough to putt.

Peter Hanson, McDowell’s Ryder Cup team-mate and playing partner for the opening two rounds, made four straight birdies from No. 14 in a 65.

Hanson, McDowell, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ross Fisher are the only Ryder Cup players in the field, although captain Colin Montgomerie and vice-captains Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn are also playing.

Fisher failed to come through qualifying for the U.S. Open on Monday, and needs to play well at Celtic Manor if he is to regain a place in the world’s top 50 and win a place at the tournament on Washington’s Congressional course from June 16-19.

The Englishman hit back from bogeys at No. 12 and No. 13 with birdies in three of the last four holes in a 70, including at the last where his long eagle putt stopped just before the cup. McDowell is also the U.S. Open defending champion.

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