It was a difficult scoring day at Le Golf National for the opening day of the HNA Open de France but Bradley Dredge battled the windy conditions to edge clear of Graeme McDowell and Andy Sullivan in the European Tour’s third Rolex Series event of 2018.
Dredge posted the best round of his season so far with a closing 66 at last week’s BMW International Open in Germany, and he followed that with a first round four under par 67 in France.
The Welshman began his round by dropping a shot on the tenth hole, but that was his only bogey of the day as he posted birdies on the 13th, 14th, 17th, third and fifth holes for a one shot advantage.
Looking for a hat-trick of victories as well as a jump up the points table for the Ryder Cup, two-time Open de France Champion McDowell once again showed his affinity for the Albatros Course that will host The 2018 Ryder Cup in three months’ time, firing seven birdies in his round of 68.
The Northern Irishman, who shares second place with Englishman Sullivan, will be one of Thomas Bjørn’s five Vice Captains in September, and another, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, also features on the leaderboard following a two under par round of 69 which included a double bogey six on the opening hole.
“Very pleased, especially the way I played the first kind of dozen holes,” said McDowell. “I made two clumsy errors on the greens from 12 and
15 feet where I three-whacked them both. 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. 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” he added.
“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 back to trying to steer it and the fairways become a little looser.”
Shane Lowry is two shots adrift of McDowell after a round of 70 and he’s tied in seventh place, well placed to make a challenge while Paul Dunne struggled to a 74 which leaves him well down the field and he’s tied with defending champion Tommy Fleetwood on three over par.
World Number Two Justin Thomas, who looks set to be part of the United States team at The Ryder Cup, opened his debut in the HNA Open de France, and the Rolex Series, with a round of 70, which also included a double bogey on the fifth hole. He is joined on one under par by Jon Rahm, the only player to so far win two Rolex Series events, whose round included four birdies, one bogey and a double bogey on the 15th hole.