Slattery leads windy Wales Open
Newport, Wales (Sports Network) - England's Lee Slattery overcame windy conditions on Thursday with a four-under 67 and is the first-round leader of the Wales Open.
Marcel Siem and Tim Sluiter are one stroke back after three-under 68s in round one at the Celtic Manor Resort, home of the 2010 Ryder Cup, where Europe reclaimed the trophy.
The wind was tough on the players in Thursday's opening round. Only 11 players broke par and Slattery was the best among them.
Due to logistics, players begin on the first and 11th tees for the first two rounds, instead of the customary first and 10th tees.
Slattery started on No. 11 and flew out of the gate with back-to-back birdies. He parred his last six holes on the opening side and got to three-under par with a birdie at the second.
Two holes later, the Englishman birdied the par-four fifth and reached five- under with a birdie at the eighth. He was tied for the lead with Siem, but a bogey at the long, par-five ninth left Slattery one back.
He parred the 10th, then took over sole possession of the lead when Siem bogeyed his final two holes.
"It was very difficult out there," said Slattery. "The wind was strong, I think stronger than anticipated. Just getting off to a good start today, two birdies in the first two holes, made all the difference. It just meant I had something to go for afterwards."
Slattery, whose only tour win came at last year's Madrid Masters, has already enjoyed a good week, no matter the outcome of this championship. On Monday, the 33-year-old qualified for the U.S. Open at Walton Heath, and he is already excited for his trip to Olympic Club and San Francisco in two weeks.
"I'm really looking forward to San Francisco," acknowledged Slattery. "It'll be my first tournament in America and I'm fixing up trips to the baseball and Alcatraz."
Siem, who has three top 10s this season, including last week's BMW PGA Championship, couldn't save par from a bunker at nine, then failed to get up and down from short of the par-three 10th.
"I've been pretty consistent and I played well last week," said Siem. "My coach came after Walton Heath yesterday and did a little bit of work, and I took a lot of confidence from that. It's very, very steady at the moment."
Sluiter overcame a disastrous start on Thursday. Beginning at 11, Sluiter tallied a birdie, two bogeys and a double-bogey before he made it to the first tee. He saved his round with six birdies to grab his share of second place.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Joel Sjoholm, Pablo Larrazabal and Simon Thornton share fourth at two-under 69.
Ross Fisher was on the victorious 2010 European Ryder Cup team and he shot a one-under 70 on Thursday. He is tied for eighth with Fabrizio Zanotti, Marcus Fraser and Steven O'Hara.
Three other members of the winning side are in the field this week, but none had nearly the kind of success Fisher had.
Francesco Molinari had a three-over 74, while Miguel Angel Jimenez carded a five-over 76. Molinari's brother Edoardo struggled to a six-over 77.
Colin Montgomerie, who captained that team to victory at Celtic Manor, shot a 74 on Thursday and Jose Maria Olazabal, this year's captain and an assistant to Montgomerie two years ago, had a 76.
NOTES: Defending champion Alexander Noren played poorly in the first round with a 10-over 81...Anthony Wall withdrew on Thursday...Paul Lawrie, who is fifth in the Race to Dubai after his second last week at Wentworth, posted a three-over 74.
05/31 14:56:01 ET