Thursday, March 22, 2012


A brilliant seven-under-par 65 gave Damien McGrane a two-shot lead after the first round of the Trophée Hassan II at Agadir in Morocco today.
The 40 year old teed off with an eagle on the par five tenth at Golf du Palais Royal and, although he had three bogeys on his card, there were also eight birdies - four of them in his last five holes.
McGrane, whose only European Tour victory came by nine shots in the 2008 Volvo China Open, is two ahead of Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares.
“I played beautifully out there today and I am delighted with it,” said McGrane.
“I got off to a fast start and managed to keep it going so it was a very good day. The conditions were fairly tough with the warm wind and it was very testing out there, but I managed to putt very well out there and hence the reason I have the good score.
“This golf course is beautiful and if you play well it can give you plenty of opportunities. I am playing well at the moment – I played well last week and could have finished a lot better but this is a new week a new opportunity and I am very thankful to have got off to such a good start.
“I made a great start today with the eagle and that really got the confidence going early and I managed to continue that and finish strongly so all in all it is a nice feeling.
“Both Richie Ramsay and myself played really well out there today and it became a bit of a putting competition between the two of us!
“This is a beautiful golf course and there is something very special about playing on the King’s course. As European Tour players we are very privileged to play great courses most of the time and we always get well looked after wherever we go but this week is very special indeed.”
Cañizares was pleased with his opening 67 after a steady rather than spectacular start to the year.
The 29 year old has made five cuts in five events on The European Tour, with a best finish of tenth in the Avantha Masters, as well as finishing fifth in the Mayakoba Classic on the US PGA Tour.
“I have been playing well so far this year and I am just waiting for everything to come together. I hope that this is the week it comes together,” he said.
“It was a good round today. It was very steady and I managed to putt well on the greens so all in all it was good. I didn’t play great last week but I managed to find a better rhythm on the greens this week and feel a lot more comfortable.”
Spain's Jorge Campillo, Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, Italian Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari, Welshman Phillip Price, Aberdonian Richie Ramsay and English pair Kenneth Ferrie and Graeme Storm were all bunched together on four under, three off the pace.
Italian 18 year old Matteo Manassero, needing a win to qualify for the Masters Tournament at Augusta, kept his dreams alive with a three under 69.
“I am happy to have made seven birdies on a tough course because I took my chances at the right moments but you can easily make bogeys because I only missed two shots all day and dropped four shots,” said last week’s runner-up.
“This course penalises you a lot for the smallest mistakes, but it is never going to be a bad round if you can make seven birdies.
“Obviously I would love to win here and match the victory with qualifying for the Masters. It is definitely a goal but I just have to see what happens. The main thing is I am playing good golf and putting well but you really have to be careful around this golf course.”
Storm reached seven under with two to play, but after five successive birdies he double-bogeyed the short eighth and dropped another on the last.
"A month ago I wanted to pack the game in, so where I am now is a massive leap forward," said the former Open de France champion.


AGADIR, Morocco -- A bitterly disappointed Robert Rock ruled out making his Masters debut next month after taking an 11 at one hole during his opening round of the Hassan II Trophy.
Rock, ranked 57th, needs to finish first or second in Agadir this week to make the top-50 world rankings and be assured of competing at Augusta National in two weeks.
The Englishman who kept Tiger Woods at bay to capture the Abu Dhabi Championship this year saw his hopes dive early on the par-four No. 4 hole of the Gulf du Palais Royal course. Off the tee he drove left out of bounds and over the barbed wire fence running the length of the Atlantic shoreline. He then played two provisional balls but managed to find the second that was resting on a small salt bush.
"I thought I could hit the ball even though it was sitting a little off the ground so I took a big swipe at the ball but didn't manage to move it," he said.
"So without changing my stance I then managed to move the ball about two feet and from there I now hit my sixth shot back onto the fairway."
Rock had 212 yards to the pin but his 4-iron seventh shot landed short of the green. His eighth ran 10 feet past the hole, and then he three-putted for an 11.
However, he regrouped somewhat when he eagled the 17th in an eventual round of 5-over 77.
Rock sat on the steps leading into the scorer's hut expressing his disappointment, and in no doubt that he'd lost the chance to compete in a first Masters.
"I think I had a 12 or an 11 when I was first starting to play golf but nothing like this score for a long time in my pro career," he said.
"But it was my main intention in coming here this week to try and qualify for the Masters and hopefully it was to be the end result of a good week. I was looking forward to playing this course but it's not to be, and I have to try and find some way of finding some interest in playing the next few days.
"It's a shame and a disappointment I won't be going to the Masters just because of what happened at one hole."
John Daly returned to competition with a 77, while playing partner and 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell scored 81.
After commencing with two birdies, the crestfallen New Zealander dropped six strokes in his last four holes.
It left Campbell third-to-last in the 126-player field, and just one stroke fewer than former U.S Amateur winner Peter Uhlein, who had a consecutive quadruple and double bogey in his 83.
Par 72
65 Damien McGrane (Ireland)
67 Alejandro Canizares (Spain)
68 Richie Ramsay (Scotland), Graeme Storm (England), Robert-Jan Derksen (Netherlands), Edoardo Molinari (Italy), Kenneth Ferrie (England),  Philip Price (Wales), Jorge Campillo (Spain)

71 Steven O'Hara, David Drysdale (T25)
72 Marc Warren, Gary Orr, George Murray, Stephen Gallacher (T35)
73 Craig Lee (T53)
79 Peter Whiteford (T116).





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