Early pace set by Bourdy but Willett stays in contention

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy led the Omega European Masters by two shots after a faultless nine-under-par opening round of 63 at Crans-sur-Sierre.

Bourdy, starting on the 10th tee, reached the turn on three-under-par and then surged to the top of the leaderboard with five birdies from his inward nine holes.

England’s Oliver Fisher also completed the front nine of the course in 31, with five birdies, to finish the day in a two-way tie for second place with a six-under-par round of 65. Fisher was joined by Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed, who finished with four birdies on the last five holes to also record an opening round of 65 on a low scoring day in the Swiss Alps.

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Five players were tied for third place on five-under, with early pace-setters of Welshman Rhys Davies, England’s Robert Coles and India’s Anirban Lahiri all shooting a 66. Sheffield’s Danny Willett was one shot further back, with fellow Yorkshireman Simon Dyson keeping in touch on 69. Hull’s Richard Finch hit 70 in his opening round.

They were joined in the afternoon by Australian Scott Barr and England’s David Howell. Seven players were one shot further back on four under.

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Sweden’s Peter Hanson, the only members of Europe’s Ryder Cup team playing in Crans-Sur-Sierre this week, both opened with two-under-par rounds of 69.

Back in Ryder Cup action for the first time in 13 years, Lawrie arrived in Switzerland fresh from his victory in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

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Lawrie shot a 69, which featured three bogeys and five birdies. It was up-and-down but not as eventful a round as Fabrizio Zanotti, who carded seven birdies and an eagle – but also a a triple bogey and four bogeys to also be on two-under-par.

Hanson’s round was not smooth either. The Swede was three over after bogeying the third, fifth and sixth holes but he recovered well to card five birdies.

Chinese amateur Andy Zhang, the 14-year-old who in June became the youngest ever player to qualify for the US Open, went round in a one-over-par 72.

Defending champion Thomas Bjorn opened with a a three-over 74, as did Swedish European Tour debutant Kristopher Broburg.

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Coles would have joined Fisher and Andersson Hed in second place had he not dropped his only shot of the day at 18.

A three-time winner on the Challenge Tour, Coles turns 40 on Sunday and he is aiming to mark the occasion with his first European Tour victory.

“I’m hungrier than ever, because recently I’ve had chances to win, and I’ve started to believe that I can do it out here,” said Coles.

“Maybe earlier in my career I didn’t truly believe I could win, but that’s changed.

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“The hunger comes from knowing you’re capable, I just need to prove it. I’m probably hungrier now than I was in my twenties.

“To win any tournament would be great, but to win it on my birthday would be extra special.”

Bourdy is now in prime position to push for a fourth career victory, and his first since the 2009 Hong Kong Open.

“It was a great day. I don’t think I’ve ever played better,” said Bourdy.