Storm and Green lead the way

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Aussie Richard Green and England’s Graeme Storm share the lead after the first round of the Open de France.

Australia’s Richard Green and Englishman Graeme Storm share the lead after the first round of the Alstom Open de France.

Both shot six-under-par 65s at Le Golf National in Paris to lead by one shot over Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, South African George Coetzee and England’s James Morrison.

Storm, a 33-year-old from Hartlepool who was once the British Amateur Champion, is chasing his second win on the European Tour, with his only other triumph in over 250 starts coming four years ago at this very tournament, after coming from five back with one round left to play.

“There’s always added pressure when you come back,” said Storm.

“People say you’ve won and you like the course. Don’t get me wrong – it is fantastic to know you’ve done it – but you still have to put the work in.”

Storm, ranked 258th in the world, is playing with a new driver and putter, and it seemd to do him a world of good, as he played a bogey-free round on Thursday, picking up two birdies on his front nine, and four more after the turn.

His birdie at the 484-yard 17th hole effectively helped wipe out a two-shot deficit behind then sole leader Green, who bogeyed the same hole.

Green was happy with his round, despite the late slip.

“I’ve been working hard on my driving lately and putting especially, and it all seems to be coming to nicely,” Green told europeantour.com.

“I played pretty solid golf last week in Germany and it’s come through this week here, as well.

“I like the layout of the golf course very much, I like the way it plays bouncy. I tend to sort of mentally like difficult golf holes, and I think I focus a little bit harder for that very reason.

“Six under par for me today is a great score, and I’m very happy with the position I’m in. It’s given me a lot of confidence to go into the rest of the week.”

Both Green and Storm will be playing in the Open in a fortnight’s time. Green earned an exemption after a 21st place finish on the Race to Dubai money list last year, while Storm won the qualifier at Sunningdale three weeks ago thanks to a stunning 62.

24-year-old Coetzee, who finished joint-third in Germany last week, had reached seven under after 14 holes, but found the water on the 15th and bogeyed the 17th as well to lie one behind the leaders.

Elsewhere, Scot Colin Montgomerie, who needs a top-five finish this week to sneak into the Open field, was looking good at two under with three to play, before he bogeyed the seventh and three-putted the ninth to finish on level-par 71.

Bubba Watson, making his first ever regular European Tour appearance in Paris this week, didn’t have the greatest day, typified by his performance on the last hole, where he drove into a bunker after laying up short and then three-putted to make bogey. He finished with a three-over 74.

Highest-ranked player in the field, Martin Kaymer, is hoping to make up some lost ground on the top three in the world and improve on his world ranking of fourth, but he’ll be somewhat disappointed with his opening 71, matching the likes of Montgomerie, defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn.

Kaymer made 18 successive pars in his round.

A total of four players – Damien McGrane, James Ruebotham, Rikard Karlberg and Jaco Van Zyl – were all disqualified for taking wrong drops.

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