Ashun Wu of China and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat take one-shot lead after rounds of eight under par 63 in the first round of the €1.75 million Acciona Open de Espana presented by Madrid at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Spain.
Wu, currently 37th in the 2021-2022 DP World Tour Rankings and four-time winner on the DP World Tour, including the 2022 Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa, had a clean card of eight birdies, five on the front nine and three on the back nine for halves of 31 and 32.
Aphibarnrat had more variety in his scorecard with two bogeys, eight birdies, including five in a row from the 13th and an eagle on hole four.
A true honour
Tied third in a three-way tie on seven under par 64, are world No 6 Jon Rahm of Spain, Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and Swede Joakim Lagergren.
Rahm said it would be ‘a true honour’ to equal the late Seve Ballesteros’ haul of three victories at his home open after making a strong start.
Rahm won this event for the first time in 2018 before successfully defending his title in 2019.
Spanish golf great Ballesteros won this event in 1981, 1985 and 1995, and Rahm would love to emulate that achievement.
He said: “It would be incredible. He is obviously the reference in Spain. He made golf where it is in this country.
Dream come true
“He changed golf worldwide but here especially. So any time you get your chance to put your name on a list that only Seve is on (in the DP World Tour era), it’s really incredible.
“I’ve been able to do it a couple of times with a few accomplishments but to be able to win this event three times would be incredible.
“I don’t want to think about it too much but it would be a dream come true, it would be a true honour.”
Rahm began his first round over the 7,112-yard par-71 course, with a birdie at the 10th before holing his 33-foot eagle putt on the 14th, drawing huge cheers from the local fans.
Rafa stumbles on home stretch
He closed his front nine with back-to-back birdies at the 17th and 18th before giving a shot back at the first, having got into trouble off the tee.
But he bounced back with birdies at the fourth and fifth before chipping in for another gain on the eighth to reach seven under par.
He said, “I’m glad I could follow up my last competitive round with another really good round and keep the good play going. It’s important to start strong.”
Defending champion and Dubai resident Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain shot a three over par 74 to be tied 108th. He went to the turn in an encouraging one under par 35 with a birdie on hole seven and eight pars. He stumbled home in 39, four over with a couple of bogeys, a double and no birdies and is needing a strong second round to see the weekend and make the 36-hole cut.
A total of 68 players are under par with a number of golfers still on course completing their first round.