Joost Luiten, first round leader. Pic: Getty Images
Vienna, July 10: Joost Luiten opened the Austrian Open with a seven-under par 65 as the Race to Dubai schedule got underway after a gap of more than four months at the Diamond Country Club. The Austrian Open is a dual ranked event on the European and European Challenge Tours.
Luiten, a former champion back in 2013, revived memories of his win at the same course with birdies on five of the first seven holes and then the 34-year-old birdied three of his four closing holes to move one ahead of Scotland’s Craig Howie, who set the early pace with a bogey-free six under par.
Howie was joined on that number by compatriot Marc Warren, aided by an eagle on the par five 15th and a birdie on the last for a round of 66.
Another Scot, Connor Syme, sits in fourth place on five under par alongside Philip Eriksson of Sweden, Denmark’s Nicolai Højgaard, and Italian Lorenzo Scalise.
Miguel Angel Jiménez, marked his 705th European Tour start with a four under par round of 68. The evergreen Spaniard is just one appearance behind Sam Torrance’s record set more than a decade ago. He is joined by nine other golfers in a share of eighth.
Luiten said, “I’ve got good memories here. For some reason I like this place, I’ve played well here a few times. It’s good to come back after a four-month break and have my game in order and shoot seven under. A lot of us didn’t know where we stood with our games, it’s good to have a fast start and bring in a good score.
“Everything was working well. I hit it well off the tee, didn’t miss many greens, holed a couple of putts and hit my irons close. Just one bogey – you have to keep the mistakes off your card here because it’s a tricky golf course if you’re out of position. I stayed in position a lot and made some nice birdies.”
Craig Howie added,“Absolutely delighted. I wasn’t really sure what to expect after four months off, so that was a surprise. It was good though. It’s the first time I’ve had a bogey-free round in a long time. That was pretty satisfying, particularly on such a tough golf course.
“There was no wind so it really was perfect conditions. The greens are so good, so that makes putting a little easier and you can then build a score.”
Howie has played on event on the European Tour before, so he said, “To have the opportunity to play a European Tour dual ranking event is great. It’s a lot more money as well, so there is a lot to play for.”
Marc Warren had to carry his own bag, as his caddie, Ken Herring did not get his Covid-19 test result in time. Still Warren shot 66 and said, “I’m very pleased. You’re never quite sure what it’ll be like once you’re out on the course.”
“I’m carrying my own bag for the first time in 15 or 16 years – Ken (Herring) didn’t get his test back in time, unfortunately. So that was that.”
As per all events on the reshaped 2020 Race to Dubai, the Austrian Open is governed by the European Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which will see healthcare specialists Cignpost deliver rapid on-site COVID-19 screening.
In order to help mitigate risk, all players, caddies and on-site personnel will be tested, and participants will operate within national public health guidelines, including social distancing and following enhanced hygiene directives.