Alejandro Cañizares carded a five under par 67 to move into the first round lead at the Austrian Golf Open, where former World Number One Martin Kaymer was one of four players a single shot back.
Spain’s Cañizares has two European Tour titles to his name, which came eight years apart in 2006 and 2014, and the 38-year-old is aiming to bridge a seven year gap for his third victory this week at Diamond Country Club.
He recorded one of only seven eagles all day at the chilly Austrian venue, after a stunning second shot into the par five fourth left him with a five foot putt which he duly converted. Four birdies and a single bogey earned him the lead heading into day two, ahead of tightly-bunched chasing pack.
Leading that chasing pack on five under par were a quartet comprising two-time winner in 2020, John Catlin of the USA, Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg, Jacques Kruyswijk of South Africa and two-time Major winner Kaymer.
The German Ryder Cup star made clear his intentions to collect a 12th European Tour title this week in Austria and six birdies en route to his 68 certainly helped that cause.
Alejandro Cañizares: “I’m very pleased. It was tough to keep focus – it’s so cold. It was tough to feel the hands and that’s very important.
“I putted very nicely, just missed a short one when I made the bogey, that was about it, but from tee to green I was very stable. Very happy with the round, the last two putts were really big, I’m really pleased with the way I finished.
“I think the strength was just keeping my head on every shot because it’s very easy when you miss a shot to let it go on days like this when you’re struggling physically and mentally to keep warm.
“It was just do my process and do every shot and I was happy the way I managed bad shots becuase I didn’t let them get to me like has happened in the past. That was the key. I didn’t think that I played wonderfully tee to green, it wasn’t beautiful, but I hit some really good shots and I made some good putts in the end, so a solid round overall.
Martin Kaymer: “The biggest battle was probably the cold, but in general the golf course plays pretty well, the conditions are nice, the greens are good. Especially when I played in the morning, I had a very nice group, we were flowing, we all played fairly decent. I didn’t make many mistakes, so four under was a decent start.
“I’ve never played the golf course, so it was very new for me when I came on Monday. I drove from Munich, it’s a very convenient tournament for me to participate in. I’ve enjoyed the golf course – not so much on Monday when it was snowing – but Tuesday, Wednesday and today was enjoyable and so close to my country. I like to come to Austria.
“It was quite similar to yesterday. Still cold and windy, but in the tournament you do hit it a little bit better, a little bit further. The adrenalin is up, your focus is up, so I was quite pleased the way I played the golf course under those conditions today.”
John Catlin: “The front nine was very, very cold. I told my caddie ‘I’m going to keep my hands in my gloves and have you hold the yardage book out and do my work that way’. That’s abnormal for me, but I found that I needed to do that to keep my hands warm.
“I was able to make a few birdies on two, four and five. I actually hit a ball in the water on the first as well and was able to save par there. That was a nice momentum saver. Very happy to be under par today. It’s not easy and anything in the red was good.
“Every single hole feels like a battle, so when that’s the case you know that everyone else is probably going through it as well. I definitely knew it was playing challenging. Just tried to stay in the present and do the best I could.
“I love the greens here. I read the greens really well. Every single tee shot presents you with a lot of options. You can take driver, three wood, an iron on almost any hole here. I’ve always liked golf courses like that. It just seems to fit my eye.”
Rikard Karlberg: “It was tough but there were also some opportunities if you took on the par fives so even if it was cold and windy, it was quite enjoyable and you had to have your head sharp and it was playable, so it was fun.
“The par save at 16 was big. I had a three-putt there at 11 and a great chance after, missed a couple of short ones, so to keep t going it was fantastic to get a putt like that on 16, it’s not that often it happens.
“I do like the look of this place and I think when you’ve been here so much – they have been great hosts for the European Tour for over ten years now – I’ve been here a lot and you get to know how to play the course as well.
“Definitely from the tee is important, because then you can set up chances from the par fives and the short par fours so I would say it’s key from the tees and I hit a lot of fairways today so that was really nice.”