Ross McGowan took the first-round lead at the Acciona Open de Espana, while Jon Rahm welcomed his competitive return to his birthplace with an eight-under 63.
Rahm delighted the local spectators with some high-quality golf befitting his world No. 1 position, but he had to settle for third place on the scoreboard as McGowan and Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez outperformed him.
McGowan has only had two top-10 finishes and has missed the cut 16 times since earning his second European Tour championship in Italy nearly a year ago, but he got off to a good start in his quest for a third victory at the gorgeous Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
The 39-year-old carded eight birdies and an eagle at the 14th, finishing in 61 to set a new course record and take a one-shot lead over Rodriguez.
“I think a couple of things have clicked,” said McGowan, who started the event in 167th place on the Race to Dubai. “I think it’s a combination of the work I’ve done with the coach and some of the Covid limitations easing off, but I find mentally I’m in a better place, so I think it’s a combo of the two.”
“I always tend to putt very well here, and I played pretty well here last time, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Rodriguez has missed the cut in his last nine Tour outings and is ranked 13 places lower than McGowan at 390th, but he also rediscovered some solid form on home soil with a 62 marred only by a bogey at the 11th.
“It’s in my opinion that my start is excellent,” he remarked. “I remember playing the Open de Espana so many years ago and it was a terrific moment, plus Jon Rahm is in the front and I am really good friends with him, we played a lot together and it is fantastic.”
“There are so many fans, friends, and relatives here. It’s my fantasy. There were so many friends and family watching; this is my home; it’s only ten minutes away, but it’s been an unbelievable week so far.”
Rodriguez’s sentiments were echoed by defending champion Rahm, who was rejuvenated after a short break following the Ryder Cup, where he was Europe’s standout performer, winning three and a half points from five matches.
“There are quite a few fans out there, and they are fairly enthusiastic; they have been pent up for far too long, and now they have the opportunity to come out and see me play,” Rahm remarked. “I hadn’t played on Spanish soil since this event two years ago, so they’re golf hungry, and they were fantastic.”
“From the beginning, they were really encouraging of every single shot and putt I made, and when I missed a shot, they were equally sympathetic, so that always helps.”
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