The Ryder Cup theme here at Celtic Manor was hijacked by Belgian hammer Nicolas Colsaerts, who launched a ball 447 yards, longer than any golfer in the history of the European Tour, en route to the top of the leaderboard at the Wales Open.
Colsaerts’ 66 took him to the early clubhouse lead on five under par, a massive 12 shots better than Ryder Cup rookie Stephen Gallacher, whose nightmare round of 78 did not feature one birdie.
Colsaerts reprised the form of two years ago when Tiger Woods described his putting at the Ryder Cup at Medinah as the best he had seen. The Belgian has suffered a dip in form since, failing to establish himself on the PGA Tour, but on the eve of the 2014 clash at Gleneagles he reminded his old comrades just how potent he can be, his drive at the 18th setting up an eagle.
“I saw them [the Ryder Cup players here] having dinner and thought, ‘I wish I was in that room,’”Colsaerts said after his five-under demolition of the course that hosted the Ryder Cup four years ago. Playing alongside Westwood in a fourball victory over Woods and Steve Stricker at Medinah, Colsaerts holed eight birdies and an eagle. “It’s their adventure and I am not part of it, but once you play in one Ryder Cup, you don’t want to miss another one.”
And of the longest drive this side of the Atlantic, he said: “I thought it was too far right but it’s all downhill and downwind and it must have luged down the fairway. If all the stars align you can hit it a long way.”
Of the four involved next week, Jamie Donaldson was the happiest, carding a satisfactory one-under-par 70. Westwood, playing his first event for a month, complained of inevitable rust after opening with a two-over-par 73.
There was nothing wrong with his stride pattern, however, demonstrated in the athletic bound up the slope to the scorers hut behind the 18th green. Westwood might have made use of the buggies available along with his playing partners but that would not have shown to best effect the buff physique honed these past six weeks in the gym.
“There was plenty of rust out there, which is what I expected after hardly playing these past five weeks. I hit it okay but I don’t know this course very well and missed a few fairways. The fairways are quite tight so I was hitting out of the rough quite a bit. Hit some lovely putts but they weren’t dropping, but overall just the workout I needed.”
Donaldson, too, has had time off and was pleased to card a sub-par round. “I’m not thinking about next week. That will come around soon enough. I’m just concentrating on this event and doing the best I can,” he said. “I played nicely.”
The fourth member of next week’s Ryder Cup squad, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, finished level after a 71.Reuse content