McGowan stars in Madrid

An eight-under-par 64 signaled a sensational return to form for Ross McGowan at the Bankia Madrid Masters on Thursday.

An eight-under-par 64 signaled a sensational return to form for Ross McGowan at the Bankia Madrid Masters on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Englishman grabbed a one-shot lead after the first round in Alcalá de Henares, putting himself in pole position to repeat his sole European Tour success, which came at this very event two years ago.

McGowan completed that victory at Centro Nacional de Golf, but El Encin Golf Hotel seemed to suit his game every bit as well.

After his win two years ago, McGowan went on to finish 12th on the Race to Dubai, but a persistent wrist injury hampered his progress in 2010 and cost him a place in the Ryder Cup side at Celtic Manor later in the year.

Currently down in 161st on The Race to Dubai and in real danger of losing his card, McGowan’s 64 today was his lowest round on the European Tour in three years.

He leads Australian Brett Rumford, Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, the tournament’s host, by one shot. Gonzalo was in line to share the lead after day one, but a three-putt bogey at the final hole saw him finish tied for second.

“I think I like Madrid,” McGowan told “That was a much better round than I’ve been putting together recently.

“I got off to a good start, birdied the first two, and just kept trying to hit good golf shots – that was the key. I kept finding the right spots on the greens and holing the putts.

“It’s been a pretty tough year with a couple of injuries but it’s been improving week to week and this week it really seems to have come together.”

McGowan had two decisive runs in his round – he opened with three birdies in his first four holes before a bogey at the sixth halted his progress. But then came an even better stretch of five successive birdies starting at the nint, the highlight of which was a 300 foot putt at the 12th and a pinpoin approach to within a few feet on the next.

McGowan then picked up a second bogey after failing to get up and down on the 15th green, but hit straight back by picking up another shot at the next hole then and then wrapped things up with a tenth birdie at the last hole after a pitch to within two feet.

Rumford and Fernandez-Castaño, like the leader, are also in danger of losing their cards, though the Spaniard has been forced to sit the majority of the season out with a back problem.

Italy’s Edoardo Molinari lies a further shot off the pace after a 66, while as many as nine players managed to shoot rounds of 67, including another Spaniard, big hitting Alvaro Quiros and Edoardo’s brother Francesco.

World Number One and defending champion Luke Donald is a shot further back after a 68 alongside seven others.

“I felt like I left a few out there,” said Donald. “A couple of careless mistakes but a lot of solid golf in there too.”