Price and Brand on song

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The Independent Online

Phillip Price, of Wales, and Scotland's Gordon Brand Jnr overcame back problems to mount strong challenges in the first round of the windswept Catalonia Open in Girona, Spain yesterday.

Price, returning to tournament play after a month out of action, was the joint leader with South Africa's Retief Goosen on 67, five under par, while Brand was one shot back on 68. David Gilford, joint 24th at his first US Masters in Augusta last week, was also in contention following a first-round 69.

Though the weather was dry and sunny, the players were buffeted by a wind growing stronger throughout the day, which made good golf more difficult than usual.

Price owed his score to a brilliant finish. After starting at the 10th, he was only level par for his first 11 holes. But then he drove 255 yards over an out-of-bounds corner and sank a 15-ft putt for an eagle two at the 384-yard third hole. "You can knock quite a lot of yardage off if you go over the out-of-bounds," Price said. "There really isn't much risk if you know you can carry it. Anyway, it certainly set me off because I birdied the sixth, seventh and eighth as well to come home in 32." Brand is also having treatment to his back, which he aggravated last week, but he had the most consistent round of the day with 14 pars and four birdies in his 68.

Goosen, the recent winner of the South African Open who hopes to join the US tour next year, had four birdies in his 67 but his shot of the day came at the 577-yard 13th, where he holed out from 110 yards with a wedge for an eagle-three.

Gilford had only one poor hole in his 69, with a double-bogey at the second, his 11th. He took three shots to reach a greenside bunker, then splashed out and missed an eight-foot putt.

Ireland's Philip Walton was also pleased with a four-under-par 68 but not happy with two bogeys. He struck the ball well and fired six birdies, but he will be thinking of those two troublesome holes. At the 10th, his five-iron second was stymied by a tree, and at the 12th he three-putted from the edge of the green.

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 47