Broadhurst wins his battle with the beast

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The Independent Online

Paul Broadhurst stood at the first tee of the K Club's Smurfit Course here yesterday, wind blowing in his face, rain threatening and aware he was about to do battle with "a bit of a beast".

But it was a battle the 38-year-old won handsomely, a five-under-par 67 giving him a share of the first-round lead with the Dutchman Maarten Lafeber and the Australian Nick O'Hern in the Smurfit European Open.

Broadhurst hardly looked a likely winner of such a fight a week ago when he scored back-to-back 78s in the French Open and missed the cut by seven.

"I was awful - really shocking," he said. "I didn't know where it was going. I didn't have a clue."

But practising in the rain on Saturday paid dividends and on Monday the Warwickshire golfer, whose last victory was in 1995, finished joint top of the Open championship qualifying event at Sunningdale.

Broadhurst has not played in the Open for seven years - the last time it was at Troon - but he still holds a share of a record in it. He shot 63 at St Andrews in 1990. A year after that he won both his games in the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, but two years ago his Tour career hung by a thread when he had to go back to the qualifying school and he was not sure what he was going to do if he failed.

The father of three did not fail, however, and after re-establishing himself last season and in May led the British Masters at the Forest of Arden with a round to go, eventually finishing fifth. The highlight of his round was an 18-foot eagle putt on the long seventh, one of several holes where the tees were moved forward because of the conditions. Lafeber was another at Sunningdale at the start of the week and he came through the 12-man play-off which also featured Colin Montgomerie.

Last October the 29-year-old became the first home player to win the Dutch Open since 1947 and he was high up the Ryder Cup standings until a run in which he has failed to record a top-20 finish since January.

Non-golfing matters have contributed to that, however. He fell ill with food poisoning in Dubai and had to pull out of the Qatar Masters when three off the lead, and then a wisdom tooth twice became infected.

Left-hander O'Hern was joint second in the French Open on Sunday and has the added incentive this week of needing to clinch a place in the Open. He lies second in the table of recent performances from which two spots are offered at the end of this tournament.

Two behind in joint fourth place are Lee Westwood, David Howell and Retief Goosen on his return to action following his second US Open victory. The South African had said on the eve of the event that he ideally would have taken another week off, was tired and not quite ready - but that did not stop him coming home in just 33.

Padraig Harrington fired a 70 and Montgomerie was happy enough with his return of 72, the same score as Paul Casey and Jesper Parnevik.

Justin Rose was only one worse than that, but trying as he is, like Parnevik, to earn the additional Open spot awarded to the leading non-exempt player, he could have done without a triple-bogey eight on the last.

Nick Faldo managed only a 74, Ian Poulter a 75 and Darren Clarke a 76 - seven of them on the 457-yard 16th, but only 29 of them with the belly putter he decided to use.