Stadler flying in France

European Tour

American Kevin Stadler shot a seven-under-par 64 to take the first-round lead at the Alstom Open de France.

The 34-year-old seemed to enjoy his first trip to France, carding seven birdies in a flawless round at Le Golf National in Paris to take a one-shot lead over Germany’s Marcel Siem.

“It’s one of my best rounds of the year for sure,” said Stadler, who captured his maiden PGA Tour title at February’s Phoenix Open.

“To not make a bogey out there is something I didn’t think was possible when I first played it. It’s instantly one of my favourite courses ever, I thought it was spectacular from hole one to the end. They talk about the last four holes but they are doing a discredit to the previous 14.

“I have always wanted to come over here, the guys in the US tell me it’s one of the best events of the year and it has not let me down. It has been fantastic.”

Ryder Cup hopeful Stephen Gallacher, meanwhile, opened with a five-under 66, though it was looking at one stage like being something much better.

The Scot was eyeing the course record of 62 after covering his first 14 holes in seven under, but a missed birdie chance from five feet at the sixth was followed by bogeys at the seventh and ninth to leave him in third place.

“I missed a putt to go eight under and didn’t do too much wrong on the last couple of holes, but that’s what this course can do,” Gallacher said. “I’ll still take two (shots) better than my previous best in this event.”

Gallacher is not currently in line for Ryder Cup qualification but with a number of important events in Europe to come in the weeks ahead, he knows he still has an opportunity to force the issue.

“It’s a massive run,” he said of the tournaments ahead, which includes the Scottish Open and the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. “The thing I have to try to do is play my golf and not think about it really.

“I’m trying not to be too outcome-orientated, just think of what I’m doing on the course and hopefully it’s good enough.”

In contrast to Gallacher’s round, second-placed Siem made most of his gains on his closing holes thanks to a hat-trick birdies from the sixth.

“I always enjoy coming back here, I love the track and had a good start this morning,” Siem said. “The putts finally started dropping, last week my putting was horrible, so I am really pleased.”

Defending champion Graeme McDowell opened with a one-under 70 which leaves him six shots off the lead, while his playing partner and US Open champion Martin Kaymer carded a 72.

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