Jimenez leads European Masters

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez has the lead after the opening round of the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in the Swiss Alps on Thursday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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With the issue of Ryder Cup team places taken care of following last week's BMW International in Munich, the European Tour roadshow arrived at the scenic Crans-sur-Sierre in the Swiss Alps. World number three Ernie Els was looking to become the first man since Seve Ballesteros over 25 years ago to successfully defend his European Masters title. The two-time US Open champion, starting on the back nine, had two bogies on his opening nine holes, before storming back with five birdies on the closing nine. The result was a two under par 69 and a solid start for the defending champion. Fresh from his selection to the European Ryder Cup team, Englishman Luke Donald set out to show that he was a worthy pick. He also started on the back nine and cruised to five under par, before dropping three shots at the fourth and fifth holes. To his credit, though, Donald bounced back with birdies at the next two to finish with a four under par 67. Players tied Donald is tied with a host of players on four under par. One of the bigger names with that score is Argentina's Angel Cabrera. He got off to a poor start, with two bogies, but an eagle at the second, his 11th hole, kick-started his round and he finished strongly with a couple of birdies. A shot closer to leader Miguel Angel Jimenez is Frenchman Marc Farry. He had six birdies and just the one bogey on his way to a five under par 66. Farry, whose only European Tour win came over 36 holes at the 1996 BMW International, is a surprise contender after losing his card last year. Everyone, though, is chasing Spain's Jimenez. He had the perfectly-balanced round of three birdies on each nine to return a six under par 65. The Spaniard, who claimed his fourth title of the year last week in the BMW International Open in Munich, is brimming with confidence after sealing his Ryder Cup place three months early. In the group of players just behind Jimenez is Swede Peter Hedblom. He also had six birdies and just the one bogey at the 11th, before signing for his 66. Also chasing hard on Jimenez's heels is another Spaniard, of who much is expected every week. Sergio Garcia carded seven birdies and two bogies to remain within a shot of his countryman. Garcia is looking for some form going into the Ryder Cup in two weeks time. Victory in Switzerland is just the thing his game needs, ahead of the challenge of beating the Americans on home turf. (AP)