Newlywed Edfors leads Volvo Golf Champions by two with superb irons

johan edfors
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Even while shooting a course-record 64, Johan Edfors couldn't avoid some of the daunting sandy waste areas that dominate the Royal Golf Club course.
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PA Sport

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Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 | 11:43 a.m.

Thursdsay was a nightmare day for Roger Federer in Australia, but it was a dream one for his Swedish look-alike Johan Edfors in Bahrain.

The 35-year-old newlywed leads the European Tour’s inaugural Volvo Golf Champions by two after an 8-under-par opening round of 64.

Compatriot Peter Hanson, his Ryder Cup teammate Francesco Molinari, England's Graeme Storm and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal share second place at 66.

Sergio Garcia is just one further back after a bogey-free start to his season and Paul Casey -- the highest-ranked player in the field at ninth in the world -- also shot 67.

A week after his disqualification in Abu Dhabi, Padraig Harrington said he "struggled big time" for a 70, while Ian Poulter is in danger of a second successive missed cut following a 72, the same score as Colin Montgomerie, who designed the desert course at the Royal Golf Club that is hosting the event.

Edfors, married last month, won three times in 2006, but has failed to add to his tally in more than 100 European Tour events since then. However, he took advantage of the calmer early conditions with nine birdies, his only mistake coming on the short 16th, and established the course record for the new Tour venue.

"My iron play was really superb and I had a bunch of chances from around 15 feet," he explained.

The undulating greens have come in for lots of comments, but Tour officials by and large went easy on the players with the pin positions and the speed of the surfaces.

"It's a shame it's so hilly because you can't get them faster, but it was definitely a positive start to the year for me," said Garcia.

The former world No. 2 has slumped to 80th in the rankings and nobody should get carried away by his round, least of all him. Twelve months ago he opened 66-67 in Abu Dhabi and did not have a top-3 finish all year.

Harrington, meanwhile, commented: "I just struggled to focus, but limited the damage as much as I could."

An inadvertent ball-moving incident spotted by a television viewer led to his disqualification last week after he had signed for a 65, and the three-time major winner admitted it was on his mind on his return to action.

"Most players are sympathetic to my plight and would like to see the rule changed, but that's not going to be so easy," Harrington said. "There have been a few little jokes about it as well, which is nice because at the end of the day it's not that serious a thing."

Casey matched the front-nine 31 by Edfors thanks to a closing eagle, and he stated: "The 258-yard 5-wood was the best swing I made all day. There were times when I wasn't sure I would shoot under par, so it was just a wonderful way to finish."

Montgomerie came to grief with a triple-bogey 7 at the 408-yard fifth and, with only the top 60 and ties going through to the weekend, he and Poulter will probably have to improve at least two strokes Friday to survive.

Storm missed by one -- like Poulter -- in Abu Dhabi, and said: "I've done a lot of gym work trying to get the body in the right shape to get the swing in the right place.

"When the EGU (English Golf Union) said you need to get fit I just laughed at them, but I wish I'd listened -- I wouldn't be having the shoulder problem I've had because I'd be more flexible,” he lamented. "The Tour physio guys are probably sick of the sight of me and I've only been out for a week."