A few years ago Jamie Elson was stacking supermarket shelves as he, and golf, waited for his talent to bear the fruits it always promised. At last the Englishman appears to be blossoming.
A 65 in the first round of the Andalucian Open in Malaga yesterday gave him an early share of the lead with his countryman Robert Rock and the Swede Johan Edfors. The trio all posted five-under-par rounds to be one in front of Scotland's former Open champion Paul Lawrie.
For Elson the start was particularly welcome, seeing as he is only in the tournament thanks to his top-10 finish at the Sicilian Open on Monday. He played the outward half first in 30 and picked up another shot at the long 12th. In trouble off the tee at the last, he pitched to 10 feet and made the par putt.
The 29-year-old was a Walker Cup team-mate of Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell a decade ago, but has yet to make a real impact as a professional and lost his Tour card last season. Elson has already had two top-five finishes this year, however, and said: "I made some ground-breaking changes to my swing over Christmas because my 'fairways hit' stats last year were abysmal. I'm delighted. The first time I had a card was 2004 and perhaps it came a bit early for me. I didn't really know what I was doing."
Rock's prog-ress has been so much more consistent although he has now gone 197 European Tour events without a victory (he did walk away from the 2009 Irish Open with the winner's cheque because amateur Shane Lowry was the player who beat him).
The 33-year-old turned only in level par, but then covered the shorter front nine in just 29 strokes with birdies at the second, third, fourth, seventh and eighth.
Lawrie's four birdies in a row from the 11th included a chip-in and he then kept a bogey off his card to tuck in just off the pace. "This is only my sixth event of the year, so I've had a lot of time off," said the Aberdeen golfer. "The schedule has not suited me so far."
Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, past and present Ryder Cup captains, both shot 70, while Monday's Sicilian Open winner Raphaël Jacquelin fired a 68.