YORKSHIRE champion Alex Fitzpatrick made his Tour debut at the Porsche European Open, on a sponsor’s invitation, and returned a highly impressive six-over-par 78 in Hamburg.
The description might appear at odds with the total, but the Hallamshire player covered 17 holes in level par, a flyer into a bush that led to a 10 at the 398-yard par-4 third marring his card without destabilising him mentally.
“I definitely could have been two or three under, but luck wasn’t on my side,” said Fitzpatrick, who in September will begin a golf scholarship at legendary Arnold Palmer’s alma mater Wake Forest, in North Carolina.
“I feel like I learned a lot about my game and how it is in comparison to the top players. I loved every moment and I’m really privileged that the European Tour offered the invite. It’s been so much fun.”
Entanglement with the bush at what was his 12th hole, having started at the 10th, involved two drops under penalty from unplayable lies.
He was also left short-sided and commented: “I ended up racking up a [big] score, but I didn’t lose my head as I was trying to enjoy the day. I feel I played great – bar one hole.”
Bryson DeChambeau comfortably outscored tournament favourites Paul Casey and Patrick Reed to take the first-round lead at the Green Eagle Courses.
American DeChambeau shot a six-under-par 66, which was three better than his English rival Casey, while compatriot and Masters champion Reed was four strokes back courtesy of a birdie-birdie finish.
Three Frenchmen, Joel Stalter, Romain Wattel and Mike Lorenzo-Vera, and Germany’s Benedict Staben, led the immediate challenge a shot further back.
“It’s great to start out with six under par. I think it’s one of my lowest rounds on the European Tour so I’m very pleased,” said world No 23 DeChambeau, playing in only his sixth regular tournament on the European Tour outside of the majors and WGC events.
“I haven’t been hitting it my best so I’m still working on my game and it’s starting to turn into some form. I’m missing in the right places and making some putts, which is great.”
He added: If you do that out here you’re going to be up there.”
Starting at the 10th he carded four birdies in his opening nine holes and – although he dropped a shot at the par-4 third – he produced three further birdies in his last six holes, including a brilliant approach to the 517-yard last with his third from behind a tree.
World No 15 Casey briefly had a share of the lead at four under through nine holes, including an eagle on the par-5 18th, and a birdie at the last saw him bounce back from a double bogey at the short eighth.
That left him in a large group, including compatriot David Horsey and Scotland’s David Drysdale, on three under.
Among those a shot better off were Welshman Bradley Dredge, and English pair Steven Brown and Oliver Fisher.
Reed, who appeared to be hampered by a knee injury, began with a birdie, but struggled to find the fairway all afternoon finding a lot of the left rough - which cost him a shot on the par-five 11th.
Having fought to make pars on many holes he had a stroke of luck at the 17th when his birdie putt hit the back of the cup and dropped – otherwise it would have raced several feet past – and he followed that by picking up another shot at the last to close on two under.