Casey sets the pace on opening day of European Open

Cape Town - Englishman Paul Casey leads the way after the first round of the European Open in Germany after firing a six-under-par 66.

For years a regular fixture on the European Tour, Casey now plies his trade on the PGA Tour in the states where he claimed back-to-back victories at the Valspar Championship in 2018 and 2019.

The last of his 13 wins in Europe dates all the way back to the KLM Open in 2014, but the 42-year-old has put himself in pole position for win No 14 after producing a barnstorming finish at the Green Eagle Golf Courses in Hamburg.

After posting two birdies and a bogey in his first 10 holes, Casey finished with five birdies in his last eight holes to rocket up the leaderboard and set the first-round benchmark.

“It was a really good round of golf,” Casey said. “Yeah sure, there were a few putts that slid by but that is such a difficult golf course. I can’t explain how difficult that golf course is.

“I was happy with the patience I was showing and the quality of the ball-striking, and here I stand even happier because the score doesn’t do it justice as that is one of the finest rounds I’ve played this year.

“The score was great. I couldn’t have hoped for better. I’m happy to be under par, never mind six.”

Lying one shot behind the Englishman is Matthias Schwab of Austria, who continued his recent run of good form with an opening 67 to lie in solo second place.

Schwab is coming off back-to-back top 10 finishes in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland, and had an impressive round that included an eagle, four birdies and a bogey.

Sharing third place a further shot behind are Scotland's Robert Macintyre, Englishman Ben Stow and Germany's Max Rottluff, a player ranked 880th in the world but who seemed to relish playing on his home soil.

Another trio follow on three under - Sweden's Alexander Bjork, Australian Lucas Herbert and Ben Evans, the third Englishman in the top 10.

Several other PGA Tour regulars have joined Casey in Hamburg this week, but none of them finished under par.

Xander Schauffele, whose father is from Germany, opened with a one-over 73, while Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar both had 74s.

Leading first round scores at the EPGA European Open on Thursday (GBR&IRL unless stated, par 72)

66 - Paul Casey

67 - Matthias Schwab (AUT)

68 - Max Rotluff (GER), Ben Stow, Robert MacIntyre

69 - Lucas Herbert (AUS), Alexander Bjrk (SWE), Ben Evans

70 - Thomas Pieters (BEL), Pablo Larrazabal (ESP), Kristian Krogh (NOR), Pedro Figueiredo (POR)

71 - Adam Bland (AUS), Bernd Wiesberger (AUT), Lasse Jensen (DEN), Ignacio Elvira (ESP), Emilio Cuartero (ESP), Bernd Ritthammer (GER), Padraig Harrington, Guido Migliozzi (ITA), Niklas Lemke (SWE), Ashley Chesters