Eagle lifts high-flying Romero

It may be called the European Masters and it may be the first qualifying event for next year's European Ryder Cup team, but yesterday was a day for non-Europeans here.

It may be called the European Masters and it may be the first qualifying event for next year's European Ryder Cup team, but yesterday was a day for non-Europeans here.

Eduardo Romero of Argentina leads by one from the New Zealander Michael Campbell and by two from the South African Hennie Otto after the opening round of the £900,000 event in the Swiss Alps.

The 46-year-old Romero was helped by holing a 110-yard sand wedge for eagle at the sixth hole and chipping in for birdie on the 14th as he shot a seven-under-par 64 on the course on which he achieved the last of his six European Tour victories six years ago.

Campbell shrugged off the symptoms of influenza to record seven birdies in his 65, and the tour rookie Otto, 134th on the Order of Merit, fired five successive birdies from the fifth and then eagled the 519-yard 15th in his 66.

The leading European is the Swiss player Paolo Quirici, who shares fourth place with the Australian Brett Rumford on 67.

Lee Westwood, the defending champion, and Nick Faldo both returned two-under-par 69s, while Darren Clarke, less than £40,000 behind Westwood at the top of the Order of Merit, was one better on 68. Spain's Seve Ballesteros could do no better than 74 on the course on which he has won three times and is now in danger of his 13th missed cut in 15 starts this season.

Justin Rose, whose 11th in Munich last week was his best finish as a professional, could only return a disappointing 79, which contained a double-bogey six, double-bogey seven and quadruple-bogey eight.

The Swedish player Per-Ulrik Johansson was forced to pull out of the event before his tee-off time yesterday after collapsing due to the effects of a high blood-pressure condition. Johansson quickly left for home and it was later announced that he could miss the next three tournaments.

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