Back-to-back birdies late in his round put Jonathan Caldwell into the red on the opening day of the Cazoo French Open on the outskirts of Versailles.
Caldwell rolled-in birdies at the sixth and seventh holes on the scorecard that he was playing as his 15th and 16th holes in an eventual score of a two-under 69, with the effort handing the Clandeboye golfer a share of 21st in the first hosting of Europe’s oldest national men’s open championship since 2019.
Up front, it’s Dane Rasmus Hogjaard showing the way and brilliantly matching the Albatross course record with 10 birdies in a nine-under-par 62. The 21-year-old, who was the third youngest to win on the DP World Tour with his first taste in 2019 of now three victories, birdied five of his closing seven holes.
“It’s not that easy but today was very good,” said the current World No 159. “To be fair I didn’t feel like I was that good off the tee but I felt like my approach play today was very good, alongside a very good putter – I holed a few long putts and you have to do that to shoot nine under.”
Hojgaard and his brother Nicholas have already been spoken about as possibly making their Ryder Cup debut this time next year in Rome, but the Italian capital was very far from his mind in teeing-up this week on the host 2018 Ryder Cup venue.
“The Ryder Cup is not something I think about when I’m playing, it’s something people are always talking about outside of the golf course but I’m just going out there and playing as well as I can,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing pretty decent the last few weeks, just making too many mistakes so my goal this week is to limit the mistakes and I see what I get out of that.
“The approach play needs to be good, the greens are a bit firm so you can’t just attack all the flags, you have to put yourself in positions where you can attack them.
“I think it’s quite cool to have a course where you need to think your way around and that’s what this course gives you, it tests you on all parts of your game.”
It’s good to see French-born players dominating the leaderboard on day one with Paul Barjon lying third with a 65 and the duo of Julian Brun and French amateur Martin Couvra among six players who signed for 66s.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, winner of last week’s Italian Open, is already well-placed in signing for a four-under 67.
“I managed to get my round going over the front nine but was hoping to get more out of my back nine, and while the bogey on 16 was I managed to hang in there at the end for a pair of pars, so I got my reward,” said MacIntyre.
Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney was left to rue a pair of closing bogeys in his one-under 70 while Ardglass Cormac Sharvin posted a hurtful double on 18 in a one-over 72.
In fact, 12 players posted a double on 18, three took a ‘7’ while two others took an ‘8’ and the other a ‘9’. There were also 39 bogeys, 89 pars and 13 birdies making the 18th easily the hardest hole on day one.