Julien Clément, whose father runs a golf magazine in his native Switzerland, made banner headlines at Club de Campo when he fired a seven under par 64 to take the first round lead in the Open de Madrid in the Spanish capital.
The 23 year old, who lies 174th on the Volvo Order of Merit with €45,425 to his name, needs a storming finish this week to retain his card for 2005. And Clément, who has missed his last eight halfway cuts going back to the Nissan Irish Open in July, made the best start possible with six birdies between the tenth and 17th holes.
Clément leads by two strokes from Australian Terry Price and Swede Johan Edfors, last year’s winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings, who had seven birdies and two bogeys in a round of 66 with just 25 putts.
Clément’s 64 would have been just a stroke off the course record but for preferred-lies. One of the Club de Campo course record holders is Eduardo Romero and Clement followed in the experienced Argentine's footsteps by employing his mental coach, Belgian Paul Lagier. However, prior to the tournament, the young Swiss was virtually resigned for a return visit to The European Tour Qualifying School.
"I just came here to prepare for the Q School," said Clément. "But now I guess I might have a chance of keeping my card. I have been able to shoot low and only two weeks ago I had a 65 at Kingsbarns in the dunhill links but I have been far too inconsistent.
"When you are the only one from Switzerland on Tour, it's tough. So for the first time this week I started looking at the game mentally. I spoke to Paul and he told me things I needed to know, like being more confident, because my scoring was not good enough for the way I was playing."
Edfors is also fighting to retain his playing privileges at 158th on the Volvo Order of Merit and nothing less than a top two finish will enable him to secure his card for 2005.
South African Trevor Immelman is one of six players sharing third place on 67, four under par, after literally being stung into action. Immelman, twice a winner on The European Tour International Schedule this season, was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of a hospital on Wednesday after suffering a reaction to a wasp sting.
"I started having pins and needles and my ears really started to hurt," said Immelman. "It was scary for a while. They were worried that my tongue would start swelling and I would have trouble breathing, but it never reached that thank goodness and I was released after about 90 minutes. I went back to my hotel, fell fast asleep and feel fine now."
The 24 year old, 58th on the Official World Golf Ranking, picked up six birdies but dropped two strokes on the back nine on his way to a round of 67. Sharing that mark are Jesus Maria Arruti of Spain, Paul Broadhurst and Brian Davis of England, South African Darren Fichardt and Australians Peter Fowler and Nick O’Hern.
Europe’s trio of Ryder Cup players from Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan had mixed fortunes. Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie shot a three under par 68, Miguel Angel Jiménez Spain – four over after seven holes, rallied with five birdies for a 70 while David Howell of England shot a four over par 75.