Jonathan Caldwell is five shots off the lead after the opening round of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters but he could have been right in the thick of things had it not been for a damaging last ten holes at Valderrama.
It’s been a thoroughly disappointing season for Caldwell whose best finish is 37th at the Scandinavian Mixed where he was defending champion.
However, it looked as if he was going to be set for a successful week when he roared to four-under after eight holes. Starting on the back nine he birdied three of his first four holes before adding a fourth birdie of the day on the par-5 17th.
A dropped shot came at the difficult 18th but unfortunately it set the tone as a bogey on the first made it successive blemishes.
The Clandeboye native looked to have steadied the ship with five successive pars before another brace of bogeys on the 7th and 8th dropped him back to level for the day and a share of 31st.
Caldwell trails local favourite Pen Angles, Jazz Janewattanond, Min Woo Lee, David Horsey and Soren Kjeldsen who are tied at the top on five-under.
Australia’s Lee came close at the Open de Espana last week and he is in the hunt again in Spain after an opening 66.
Also beginning on the back nine he birdied the par-3 12th before an eagle on the 17th saw him turn in 33.
Back-to-back birdies to open his front nine continued his momentum but he gave those shots back on the fourth and fifth in what was his only rocky spell of the round. However, he got those shots back again with two closing birdies to grab a share of the lead.
The Aussie admits he lost his focus down the stretch on Sunday as Jon Rahm won but he is hoping to go one better at a course he loves.
“Last week I just didn’t have the focus in the last six holes, but looking at the positive sides I played wonderful for those first 60-something holes.
“I love this course, I love the vibes here so just want to keep it going. I feel good about this course.
“The toughness of it (suits me). I have a really good short game around here, something about the grass, I guess. Made up and down a few times.
“It frees up my iron play and long game. Some drives are pretty tough into the wind but if you can get it somewhere in play you can make birdies.”