Min Woo Lee continued both his fine recent form and his love affair with Real Club Valderrama as he fired an opening 66 to sit in a five-way tie at the top of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters leaderboard.
The Australian, who finished third at last week’s acciona Open de España presented by Madrid, carded an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys in favourable conditions on Thursday morning to get to five under par alongside home favourite Pep Angles, Dane Søren Kjeldsen, Englishman David Horsey and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond.
Lee is no stranger to this week’s tricky host course, having finished in a tie for second behind champion Matt Fitzpatrick in Sotogrande last year.
Kjeldsen closed his bogey-free 66 with a birdie at the 18th, while Janewattananond made six birdies and a single bogey, with England’s Horsey carding seven birdies and a double bogey.
Afternoon starter Angles then made it a five-way tie at the summit after recovering from an early bogey with six birdies.
Recent DS Automobiles Italian Open winner Robert MacIntyre and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui were the leading quintet’s nearest challengers on four under.
Min Woo Lee: Last week I didn’t have the focus on the last six holes, but looking at the positives I played wonderful for the first 60 something holes. I love this course, I love the vibes here so just want to keep it going. I feel good about this course.
The toughness of it (suits me). I have a really good short game around here, something about the grass I guess. Made up and down a few times. It frees up my iron play and long game. Some drives are pretty tough into the wind but if you can get it somewhere in play you can make birdies.
Pep Angles: I love this course. Today I was lucky enough to hit it straight and score well, which sometimes this course won’t allow you to. I had pressure from the beginning, but I think I managed it well. My emotions were kind of stable.
My first tournament on the main Tour when I just turned pro was here, and I was co-leading on Sunday, so I have good memories. It’s great to play good here. I love this place, one of my goals is to do great things here – it would be very special.
Søren Kjeldsen: I felt I was playing well coming into today, but to go bogey free round this place is a bit of magic. You don’t expect that – you expect to be punished at some stage. When you don’t get punished you enjoy it while it lasts.
I don’t bomb it like most guys do today, but having said that, it seems like even the bombers enjoy it here. It could drive them crazy if they were to play course like this every week, but I love the variation of different courses. If you are a bomber or not, you can only love this place, it’s so good.
David Horsey: I played lovely. If you’re in the fairway there are a lot of chances out there. Weather was fairly benign this morning, soft conditions. You can shoot a score if you are on the fairway. Valderrama kicked in on seven, my 16th, it bit me a little bit. I would have taken that score at the start of the day.
It’s getting to crunch time (in the season). I’m trying to take my mind off it but you can’t avoid it. Just play well these next three weeks and let the golf do the talking.
Jazz Janewattananond: I’m really pleased, five under par around Valderrama – I’m shocked. I played last year and the course was very difficult, so very happy. We got 14 holes without wind and the last four holes you can see I dropped a shot when the wind got up. It’s getting tougher out there.
I’m playing every week trying to chase my card. Depends how I play this week, hopefully I’ll finish well and keep my card.