Lawrie three shots clear in Morocco

Irishman Peter Lawrie has opened up a very handy three-shot lead after the first round of the Trophée Hassan II.

Irishman Peter Lawrie has opened up a very handy three-shot lead after the first round of the Trophée Hassan II.

Lawrie shot a 64 that included two eagles to move three strokes clear of the rest of the field. His round also featured five birdies, with only a single dropped shot, to hand him the lead on eight under par.

The Irishman was playing on the Golf du Palais Royal, one of two courses being used for the opening two rounds of the event. It is also the slightly easier course of the two, a more gentle par-72 in comparison to the par-71 Golf de L’Océan.

With morning winds restricting early starters to a maximum of four under par, Lawrie and the other later starters benefited from the friendlier conditions.

Starting on the par-five 10th, Lawrie moved to two-under immediately after his first eagle of the day, and followed it up with two more birdies at the 16th and 17th. Making the turn, he birdied the first before his only bogey of the day came at the third. His second eagle followed on the par-five fifth, and he rounded off his day with two more birdies on the seventh and eighth.

“I got off to a great start with an eagle at the tenth hole – my first – I holed out from about 25 feet,” said Lawrie, whose sole European Tour title came in Spain three years ago.

“After that I played lovely, gave myself lots of chances and made one stupid bogey where I missed the green left on the third and didn’t get up and down.

“I then missed a very short birdie putt on the next, but apart from that it was lovely.”

Players experienced sweltering heat all day, made worse by the longer rounds being played due to the event being a pro-am, but Lawrie didn’t seem to let it affect him.

“I think this heat actually worked in my favour as I was so busy thinking about hydrating myself it took my mind off the game,” he said.

“I just hit it and walked after it, hit it and walked after it, and just kept thinking about drinking water.

“I think we got very lucky with the draw to be honest. The wind calmed down on the back nine and the front nine, the windier nine, was when the wind was dying down a lot. We definitely today got the best of the draw.

The Irishman also admits he’s had a slow start to the year so far.

“I’ve been playing okay this season, but just had a very slow start. I played the first four and the Middle East and had no great results there, then played Sicily and did okay, and took last week off. So coming out here I’m not in any real great form but it’s nice to start off with a 64, that’s for sure.”

In a three-way tie for second are defending champion Rhys Davies, whose 67 has put him in a solid position to mount a defence of his crown, India’s Shiv Kapur and Englishman John Bickerton, who cared a 66 at the Golf de L’Océan.