ENGLISHMAN Lee Slattery was the surprise leader at the ISPS Handa Wales Open today as a host of big names floundered in the wind and the cold at Newport’s Celtic Manor.
Slattery’s round of 67, which contained just a solitary bogey, put him clear of the chasing pack that includes in-form German Marcel Siem and Netherlands’ Tim Sluiter on minus three and a clutch of players at two under.
Ryder Cup hopeful Gonzalo Fdez-Constano, Spanish compatriot Pablo Larrazabal, Joel Sjoholm from Sweden and Irishman Tim Thornton all carded impressive rounds of 69.
Slattery arguably got the best of the conditions with his early start but still confessed to struggling on the Twenty Ten course which has been the true winner here so far with the players complaining about rock hard fairways and a lack of spin on the greens.
“It was very difficult out there, the wind was strong and certainly just getting off to a good start made all the difference,” he said.
“The course is maybe three strokes more difficult that you’d usually expect. If anyone goes around without any bogeys it would be an amazing achievement.”
Siem enjoyed himself, not least because he insists the Wales Open remains one of the best family tournaments on the European Tour.
“It’s a perfect week,” he said. “The crèche here is awesome, we have a connecting room and my mom, fiancée and little one are all here following me around. It’s a perfect family week. Having my daughter here to cheer me up after a bogey, it helps.”
Siem did however; bemoan the crazy South Wales weather.
“You always have it here,” he said. “One day it’s 25 degrees and the next it’s seven degrees and a lot of rain. It’s always very interesting. The crowds are good though.”
The more established names struggled yesterday, although at level par Thomas Bjorn will feel he is in excellent shape.
Paul Lawrie shot 74, Jose Maria Olazabal shot 76 and Colin Montgomerie carded a 75. Defending champion Alex Noren signed off with an 81 and withdrew with a back complaint and over a dozen players toiled to the tune of 10 over or worse.
Singapore’s Zhiqun Lam had the worst day of all, shooting a scarcely credible 21 over par round of 92 that included an eight, a nine, four sixes and a seven.
It was a mixed day for the quartet of returning Ryder Cup stars. The pick of the bunch was 2010 Ryder Cup star Ross Fisher who crept quietly to one under.
Francesco and Edoardo Molinari were three and six over par respectively and former Wales Open winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, was at plus five.