Golf / Portuguese Open: Gilford glows as Berendt dazzles

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DAVID GILFORD did his utmost to maintain the English domination of the early stages of the European season at Vila Sol yesterday, shooting a seven-under-par 65 in the opening round of the Portuguese Open. This, though, was insufficient to wrest the lead from Jorge Berendt of Argentina, whose 63 also overshadowed a wind-buffeted 64 from Sweden's Jesper Parnevik.

With six wins in eight events thus far, Gilford and his compatriots have been exerting a firm grip on the fairways and greens of Europe. Gilford himself had made a successful defence of his Moroccan Open title only last week, his overall consistency lifting him to 12th in the Ryder Cup points table. On this occasion, however, South America and Scandinavia held sway.

'For the first 12 holes I was playing perfect golf really,' Gilford said. 'I did not look like dropping a shot.' Indeed, he scented a tie for the lead on the 16th only to take three putts from the fringe of the green, leaving Berendt, a former caddie who has been forced to alter his grip because of a wrist injury, to charge to within a shot of equalling the course record. Missing from 10 feet at the last left the Argentine short, but his final nine-under-par score represented a landmark nonetheless, namely his lowest round in Europe, fair reward for 10 birdies.