MICHAEL Lorenzo-Vera lit up the back nine at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club to share the lead with Matthias Schwab at seven-under par after day one of the Omega European Masters.
A host of Major Championship and multiple European Tour winners have made the trip to stunning Crans Montana this week – including World No. 2 Rory McIlroy – but it was two men seeking a first victory who set the pace with opening rounds of 63.
Austrian Schwab had set the target in the morning with a bogey free effort before Frenchman Lorenzo-Vera came home in 29 to join him at the summit in the spectacular Swiss venue.
Lorenzo-Vera admitted all the hard work had been in getting himself in the right shape mentally after more than a month off.
“I’m very happy because I just had five weeks off. It was a stressful five weeks with a wedding and moving plus two kids,” Lorenzo-Vera revealed.
“I managed to bring the head together pretty well today. I stroked the ball really well, with the irons, the putter.
“The best thing to do (with so much going on) is to have a very, very good psychologist, that you call often. I’m not kidding, that’s really what I do.
“Try to clean the head as much as possible outside the tournament and come here fresh and ready to play golf.
“The changes (to the course) make it a little bit less stressful. Twelve and 14th greens, more fair. Fifteen is longer but easier around the green. They made the course more fair and it feels good when you are here.”
Italian Lorenzo Gagli, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg are their closest challengers at six-under, one shot ahead of 2017 Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood, South African Erik van Rooyen– who clinched his maiden European Tour title in Sweden last week – Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Scot David Drysdale, Malaysia’s Gavin Green and Italian Guido Migliozzi.
Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters Tournament winner and champion here in 2005, is amongst a group of 11 players at four-under, while last week’s FedEx Cup winner McIlroy is one of 16 players shot further back and four shots off the lead at three-under.
Four-time Major winner McIlroy, who is looking for his fourth win of the season, said: “It’s so different, it’s fun. The 18th hole finishes basically in the middle of the town.
“It’s a very nice atmosphere to play in. A little more relaxed. It’s been such a big adjustment for me from the sort of golf and courses I’ve been playing the last few weeks to here.
“I felt like I did OK with it today, didn’t putt as well as I wanted to,” added Rory, who lost a play-off for what could have been his first European Tour victory at Crans, in 2008.
McIlroy, made no bones about chasing down Brooks Koepka’s World No. 1 position, saying: “I feel like when I’m playing my best I’m the best player in the world. I would like to get back there. It’s been a goal of mine for a while.
“I haven’t experienced that summit for the last four years. I feel like with the work that I’m putting in and the consistent golf that I’m playing, hopefully it’s only a matter time.”
Schwab is another looking for his first European win and was pleased with his start.
Matthias said: “It was a good day for me. Got off to a pretty good start, holed a bunker shot on four and that got my round going.
“Couldn’t really keep it up on the back nine. Had a couple of really good looks, but still seven-under is a good start.
“It reminds me of home a lot. I grew up in the mountains and still live there. I like being here, I like the mountains.
“I don’t know if growing up at altitude is an advantage, you still have to hit shots and play good shots.
“Obviously I know how far my ball is going at this altitude. That surely helps but other than that I don’t think it’s really an advantage.”
Fleetwood also started well, despite some issues with his putting in recent weeks.
“I started the round off really well, played some solid shots. Could have converted a couple on the first four and then had a ropey patch,” said Fleetwood,
“The bogey on eight was just a poor iron shot, out of position. Then I got it going, in general I holed out well, putted well.
“I putted with a blade putter for about three years because I need the rotation, the release in my stroke. The last three or four weeks I’ve putted poorly.
“The putter I was using was fine when I was putting well, but when I’m stroking it badly, it was literally making it worse.
“Did a bit of work with Phil Kenyon this week. Tried this putter earlier in the year, which helped me with my lining up, and I put it back in.
“It was £90. Finno – his caddie – keeps saying it’s his, but I’m sure it was a gift…
“It worked really well today, nothing better than holing a few putts. It just eases everything off, gives you a bit more confidence going into the greens.”
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