Bradley Dredge battled the windy conditions at Le Golf National to edge clear of Ryder Cup players Graeme McDowell and Andy Sullivan in the opening round of the HNA Open de France – the European Tour’s third Rolex Series event of 2018.
Dredge posted the best round of his season so far with a closing 66 at last week’s BMW International Open in Germany, and he followed that with a first round four under par 67 in France.
The Welshman began his round by dropping a shot on the tenth hole, but that was his only bogey of the day as he posted birdies on the 13th, 14th, 17th, third and fifth holes for a one shot advantage.
Two-time Open de France Champion McDowell once again showed his affinity for the Albatros Course that will host The 2018 Ryder Cup in three months’ time, firing seven birdies in his round of 68. The Northern Irishman, who shares second place with Englishman Sullivan, will be one of Thomas Bjørn’s five Vice Captains in September, and another, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, also features on the leaderboard following a two under par round of 69 which included a double bogey six on the opening hole.
World Number Two Justin Thomas, who looks set to be part of the United States team at The Ryder Cup, opened his debut in the HNA Open de France, and the Rolex Series, with a round of 70, which also included a double bogey on the fifth hole. He is joined on one under par by Jon Rahm, the only player to so far win two Rolex Series events, whose round included four birdies, one bogey and a double bogey on the 15th hole.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood, however, has some work to do on Friday to make the cut after starting his defence with a three over par 74.
Bradley Dredge: “It was getting tougher and tougher out there. Obviously delighted with that score to start the tournament off.
“Got off to a bad start on ten with a poor tee shot and made bogey, but after that to remain bogey-free, I’m very pleased with that. A great save on seven, that was a bit of a bonus to make par from a poor tee shot. Other than that, just solid golf and kept the ball in play and putted well. It’s always going to be a good day then.”
Graeme McDowell: “Very pleased, especially the way I played the first kind of dozen holes. I made two clumsy errors on the greens from 12 and 15 feet where I three-whacked them both. To be making seven birdies on the golf course in the conditions we had today, I felt like the first nine holes we got it reasonably benign in comparison.
“I feel like it’s particularly tough this week. The fairways are narrow. The rough is beautifully graded but if you start to miss it, you can count on these strong crosswinds, and you’ll pay the ultimate price.
“Having been coming here for years and having some success here, I do stand on some of these tee boxes and feel a level of comfort. When you get a win, you do back to trying to steer it and the fairways become a little looser.”
Andy Sullivan: “I think it’s close. Today was up there with it. Feel like I’ve gone through the tough times now and come out the other side of it and feel like I’m also improving on what I had before.
“It’s nice, you know, nice to be back to form and going out there and just playing golf again. No worries, and it was great. A little bit extra motivation out there today with the loss of a loved one close, but still, got to go out there and do the job and hopefully do one for him this week.
“Any time you can shoot in the 60s around here, it’s special. They get the course setup perfect every year. If you play well, you shoot a good score. If you don’t, you’re going to shoot a lot of numbers.”
Justin Thomas: “I played well today. I hit a lot of quality shots and hit a lot of good drives and iron shots into greens. I just had two bad swings that cost me three shots on 13 and then on five, two holes I’m hitting four-irons off the tee and if I get it in play, you are looking to make a birdie and I made bogey and double-bogey on those two holes. As a whole, I felt like I played solid today.
“It’s different but it’s still the same. I love the fans over in Europe. They are so respectful, and they really appreciate good golf shots. Not that the fans in the States don’t but it’s so much fun going to The Open Championship is hitting a seven-iron or eight-iron to 30 or 40 feet, and they know it’s a great shot and I felt a very similar vibe here.
“I’m not too worried about where I’ll be after round one. I’m pleased to get the first round under par, especially at a difficult place like this. If the wind keeps up like this, it’s going to play hard this afternoon, but I’ll be in good shape.”
First Round Scores
67 B Dredge (Wal) ,
68 A Sullivan (Eng) , G McDowell (Nir) ,
69 R Karlsson (Swe) , D Burmester (RSA) , T Pieters (Bel) ,
70 J Rahm (Esp) , J Morrison (Eng) , G Havret (Fra) , S Lowry (Irl) , S Han (USA) , J Thomas (USA) , J Suri (USA) , C Wood (Eng) ,
71 R Knox (Sco) , R Gouveia (Por) , H Li (Chn) , F Aguilar (Chi) , J Donaldson (Wal) , J Smith (Eng) , M Fitzpatrick (Eng) , D Frittelli (RSA) , P Khongwatmai (Tha) , P Oriol (Esp) , H Tanihara (Jpn) , M Kinhult (Swe) , M Southgate (Eng) , B Rumford (Aus) ,
72 L Slattery (Eng) , S Garcia (Esp) , J Walters (RSA) , M Korhonen (Fin) , S Kjeldsen (Den) , R Fox (Nzl) , I Poulter (Eng) , O Fisher (Eng) , A Connelly (Can) , A Pavan (Ita) , R Bland (Eng) , C Ford (Eng) , M Ilonen (Fin) , T Olesen (Den) ,
73 R Ramsay (Sco) , A Noren (Swe) , J Campillo (Esp) , D Drysdale (Sco) , A Björk (Swe) , A Romero (Arg) , M Fraser (Aus) , S Brazel (Aus) , N Colsaerts (Bel) , D Willett (Eng) , A Chesters (Eng) , R Cabrera Bello (Esp) , S Gros (Fra) , W Ormsby (Aus) , A Levy (Fra) , J Geary (Nzl) ,
74 A Quiros (Esp) , A Otaegui (Esp) , D Howell (Eng) , F Zanotti (Par) , G Coetzee (RSA) , M Schwab (Aut) , B Stone (RSA) , T Detry (Bel) , T Fleetwood (Eng) , A Saddier (Fra) , P Dunne (Irl) , E Molinari (Ita) , N Elvira (Esp) , R Sterne (RSA) , T Hatton (Eng) , S Jamieson (Sco) , M Wallace (Eng) , S Gallacher (Sco) , M Nixon (Eng) , M Foster (Eng) , J Dantorp (Swe) ,
75 D Horsey (Eng) , P Hanson (Swe) , M Kieffer (Ger) , R Jacquelin (Fra) , Y Miyazato (Jpn) , C Syme (Sco) , P Larrazábal (Esp) , S Hend (Aus) , S Chawrasia (Ind) , H Sturehed (Swe) , L Canter (Eng) , M Manassero (Ita) , J Quesne (Fra) ,
76 L Gagli (Ita) , J Kruyswijk (RSA) , S Sharma (Ind) , N Bertasio (Ita) , T Immelman (RSA) , R Langasque (Fra) , D Im (USA) , L Bjerregaard (Den) , R Wattel (Fra) , M Baldwin (Eng) , J Wang (Kor) , D Fichardt (RSA) , G Green (Mas) , T Jaidee (Tha) ,
77 E Van Rooyen (RSA) , D Lipsky (USA) , L Jensen (Den) , V Perez (Fra) , C Paisley (Eng) , M Siem (Ger) , Z Lombard (RSA) , N Geyger (Chi) , R Rock (Eng) , J Norris (Aus) , R Paratore (Ita) , M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) , B Hebert (Fra) , L Westwood (Eng) , J Winther (Den) , S Brown (Eng) , M Kaymer (Ger) ,
78 R Cho (Kor) , S Horsfield (Eng) , C Sordet (Fra) ,
79 J Lagergren (Swe) , D Brooks (Eng) , S Fernandez (Esp) , C Blomstrand (Swe) , S Lee (Kor) , G Fernandez – Castaño (Esp) , M Warren (Sco) , C Hanson (Eng) , A Wu (Chn) , R Fisher (Eng) , B Neil (Sco) , O Farr (Wal) ,
80 C Pigem (Esp) , G Bourdy (Fra) , C Bezuidenhout (RSA) , J Scrivener (Aus) , A Rai (Eng) , R Evans (Eng) , T Aiken (RSA) , P Waring (Eng) ,
81 J Guerrier (Fra) , H Porteous (RSA) , T Bjørn (Den) , A Dodt (Aus) , C Shinkwin (Eng) , J Choi (Kor) , C Koepka (USA) ,
82 T Pulkkanen (Fin) , A Johnston (Eng) ,
83 R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) ,
84 A Bland (Aus) ,
85 J Olazábal (Esp) , M Pavon (Fra)