Qatar Masters: Brilliant Larrazabalgrabs two-shot lead on opening day

In-form Pablo Larrazabal shot an eight-under par 64 to clinch a two-stroke lead after the opening round of $2m Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which teed off at the Doha Golf Club yesterday.

Early start helped the Spaniard – winner of the recent MyGolfLife Open in South Africa – as he started his campaign with three straight birdies before temperature soared on the inaugural day.

Larrazabal had a simple formula of drinking water and making birdies as he grabbed early honours at the DP World Tour event. “I’m very pleased. I played very solid. I missed only a couple of shots. I did an up and down there on the last green which I missed, but happy days,” he said yesterday.

“The temperature was nice this morning but now it’s boiling. It’s probably 35 or 36 degrees right now, so I kept drinking a lot of water and making birdies.”

Larrazabal also gave thumbs up to the renovation work being done at the course. “The conditions are great. When you come to a golf course that they’ve really changed, and they’ve not only changed it for us, they’ve changed for this course for amateur golf. I think they did a great job and it’s looking magnificent,” the Spaniard said.

Shubhankar Sharma, Marcus Helligkilde, Adrian Meronk and Romain Langasque were two-shot back after a round of six-under par, while Scotsman Ewen Ferguson and Robert Rock of England played a round of 67 for joint third. India’s Sharma, who made birdies at the tenth, 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th was happy with his start in the silver jubilee edition of the prestigious tournament.

“I played really well. It was quite an early tee off, I don’t remember the last time I teed off at 6:55am so I just tried to stay awake on the back nine, which was my front nine, but I made two quick birdies straight out of the gate and then made another three birdies in the next seven holes to be five under after nine,” the 25-year-old, who played a bogey-free 66, said.

“The front nine here is tougher, I think, compared to the back nine and it got slightly windier so I made a few good par putts and it was good to make that birdie on the eighth and finish with a 66,” he added. Helligkilde was also content as he fired six birdies and kept his card clean in the opening round. “It was a good round. I’ve been playing nicely for this four-week stretch and the putts just haven’t dropped. I’ve missed a few fairways and I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole,” the Dane said. Poland’s Meronk and Frenchman Langasque played a round of seven birdies and a single bogey each.

“I did a good job today in putting the ball in the right places so I’m just going to con-tinue trying to do that. I’ll just take my time, adjust as the week goes on and play my game every day and see what happens,” said Meronk. Langasque, meanwhile, said: “I think everything was really good today. My putting was strong, also my chipping, all my round was really good so I think I can be really happy about that.”

Defending champion Antoine Rozner, who is bidding to become only the second golfer after South African Branden Grace to win consecutive titles, was four shots off the lead after a round of 68. The Frenchman finished joint fourth yesterday along with Laurie Canter, Joakim Lagergren (SWE), Wade Ormsby (AUS), Zander Lombard (RSA), Wilco Nienaber (RSA) and Jens Dantorp (SWE)

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