VILAMOURA – Jose Maria Olazabal, on his return to action after captaining Europe to a stunning Ryder Cup win at Medinah last month, carded a modest 75 to be 10 shots off the pace after the first round of the Portugal Masters.
Olazabal found trouble at the 18th, his ninth hole, hooking into the lake for a triple bogey seven, and was out-scored Thursday by playing partners and Ryder Cup team members Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari.
Kaymer signed for a 69 and Molinari 71.
Darren Clarke, one of the favourites to succeed Olazabal at the 2014 Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, carded a 70 while the other front runner for the captain's job, Paul McGinley, withdrew before hitting a ball in anger with a sore back.
The first round lead was held by 2010 Ryder Cup star, Ross Fisher, and Stephen Gallacher, who shot six-under-par 65s at the Oceanico Victoria golf course.
“It's been a tough season,” 31-year-old Briton Fisher said.
“But it's nice to see my hard work pay off, and if that Ryder Cup win doesn't inspire you then nothing will.”
Gallacher, 37-year-old nephew of a former Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher, reflected: “There's not much rough and the greens are unbelievably good, but when the wind got up it was pretty tough.”
Gallacher's fellow Scot George Murray shot a 66 to lie third with a group of five players tied for fourth, one shot further back. – Sapa-AFP