Inspired Goosen's gallop to the lead

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods was due to appear at the Lancôme Trophy, prompting advance ticket sales of 90,000 for the week, roughly three times the usual attendance at this chic club just outside Versailles. There was no Tiger but the Parisians came anyway. With construction work on the road to the course and some of the car parks out of commission because of two days of rain, the journey time from Versailles, where most of the players are staying, reached two hours, compared to the usual 20 minutes.

Police escorts had to be employed and the afternoon tee-times put back so players did not miss their allotted slots. Then, there was what the spectators got up to once they got to the course. "It was difficult out there," said Retief Goosen. "A lot of spectators had never been on a golf course before. There were people running across the fairways and there were a lot of cameras." Goosen, who won the US Open last June in a play-off after missing a short putt to win the previous night, is far too phlegmatic to let such things bother him, even without the perspective of recent events. The South African had a run of seven birdies in a row from the fourth on the way to a 64 and a two-shot lead after the first round.

As golf resumed its professional duties after last week's terrorist attacks in America, the mood was sombre. Sergio Garcia was among those on the course at midday when the hooter was blown to signal a one-minute silence. "Just before, it had stopped raining, but as soon as the silence started it began raining again," said Garcia. "It was as if the sky was crying." A sign at the 18th read: "Le 11 September 2001: solidarite."

Goosen is a steady front-runner, having won both the US Open and the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond by leading from start to finish. His seven-under score was one outside the course record, although preferred lies were allowed on the saturated fairways. It took until the 11th hole for the 32-year-old to record his first par, his attempt at a record-tying eighth successive birdie pulling up a foot short of the hole but on line.

He had bogeyed the first and third holes and needed to hole a bunker shot from 30 feet at the seventh to keep the run going. "It never felt particularly solid but I am happy overall with the round," Goosen said. "I am in a good position but there is a long way to go." The same can be said of his No 1 position on the Order of Merit. With a huge prize fund of over £3 million, an important event that could decide this year's money race will be the revamped Dunhill Links Championship. The event will take a pro-am format and be played at the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, but doubts have surrounded the attendance of some American celebrities.

After a meeting yesterday in St Andrews, it was confirmed that the tournament would take place on 18-21 October with a full cast of European Tour stars and the amateurs including Michael Douglas, Sir Steve Redgrave, Ian Botham, Gavin Hastings and Gary Lineker.

Colin Montgomerie, playing alongside Goosen, never looked inspired and came home in 40 for a 75, four over, while Garcia birdied two of his last four holes to finish at three under, having not dropped a shot to par. Mikael Lundberg got to seven under but a double bogey at the par-three last dropped him back into the group at five under, which included Andrew Coltart, Gary Orr and Steve Webster.

"It felt a bit flat, I suppose," Orr said. "It was probably therapy in itself to get back to doing something. We have been watching CNN for a week, so getting back on the golf course made a change."

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