Former Open Champion Tom Lehman fired a flawless seven under par opening round 65 to lead the MCB Tour Championship by three strokes on his first visit to Mauritius.
The 2006 United States Ryder Cup Captain birdied his opening two holes at Constance Belle Mare Plage before picking up further shots on the fourth, seventh, 11th and 14th holes. He also picked up a shot on the last to pull clear of South African David Frost, who posted a 68 despite a double bogey on the 12th hole after finding a bush with his drive.
Lehman managed to avoid any such mistakes in his round, saving par with lengthy putts on the sixth and ninth to get off to the perfect start in his first appearance in a regular European Senior Tour event.
“Anytime you get round without a bogey you are happy,” said the 2010 US Senior PGA Champion. “I managed to roll the ball pretty well today and made seven birdies so it is a great start.
“To make two birdies to start with was great and I just kept it going. I made some big putts to save par, on the sixth in particular when I made a 12 footer and nine from eight feet. Those were really key to the round.
“I love the course here. I think it is a wonderful golf course. It has the appearance of being extremely narrow but when you get out on the course there is room if you pick the right club and I only hit the driver twice today.”
Lehman won the Money List on the US Champions Tour in 2011 and played his opening round alongside the leading two players on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit, Peter Fowler and Barry Lane, who are battling for the John Jacobs Trophy with just €25,569 separating the pair.
Both Fowler and Lane endured difficult opening rounds, with Australian Fowler carding a double bogey on the eighth en route to a one over par 73 while Englishman Lane, who needs to finish at least second to win the Order of Merit, struggled to a three over par 75 after dropping four shots in three holes before the turn.
“Obviously Peter and Barry are both great players but didn’t play like they wanted to at all,” said Lehman. “I think both were probably pushing a little too much to have a good round. It’s easy to do, especially in Peter’s case when he’s in the lead in the Order of Merit and knows if he gets off to a good start everything is in his own hands. I’m sure both will play better over the next two days.”
Frost maintained his impressive record at Constance Belle Mare Plage, having finished tied fifth in the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open in 2010 and captured the title earlier this season after defeating Roger Chapman in a play-off 12months ago.
On that occasion he eagled the last hole to force a play-off against Roger Chapman and he nearly repeated that feat only to see his eagle putt lip out.
“It was a good start today and I played great apart from that one hole when I was a little aggressive,” said the 52 year old.
“I hadn’t made any putts until the 12th hole and coming after the double bogey all of a sudden you make two in a row. That 18th hole brought back some nice memories, especially going close to eagle again. It was a thrilling finish last year and it is a hole you can attack if you have a good drive.”
Swede Peter Dahlberg birdied the closing hole for a three under par 69 to sit in third position while Englishman Nick Job, without a top 20 finish on the Senior Tour since finishing tied 14th at Constance Belle Mare Plage 12 months ago, is a further shot back in tied fourth after an opening 70. Job eagled the last hole and is level with compatriots Bob Cameron, Carl Mason, Andrew Sherborne, Gary Wolstenholme, Welshman Mark Mouland, Frenchman Jean Pierre Sallat, and Spaniard José Rivero.