Former Ryder Cup player Wilson two behind Velasco at Madeira Open

Oliver Wilson
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Oliver Wilson has slumped to 475th in the world rankings, but didn’t have a bogey in his first-round 66 at the Madeira Islands Open.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

MADEIRA, Portugal -- Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson, nine times a runner-up on the European Tour without ever winning, has given himself another chance to change that.

With all the circuit's current star names over in America for The Players Championship, Wilson shot a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday to be tied for second after the opening round of the Madeira Islands Open. Spaniard Alvaro Velasco leads after a 64 containing seven birdies in the last 12 holes.

MADEIRA ISLANDS OPEN

This week marks the 20th staging of the Madeira Islands Open, one of the smallest events on the European Tour but also one of the most scenically spectacular.

Among those alongside Wilson is compatriot Tommy Fleetwood, the 21-year-old who won last season's second-tier Challenge Tour and who at 192nd in the world is the highest-ranked player in the field.

Also in with 66s were Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren and Magnus Carlsson and Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen.

Wilson, who didn’t have a bogey, has slumped to 475th on the rankings and lost his European Tour card last year. He then chose to skip Q-School, preferring instead to clear up some health issues.

Ben Parker, who like Fleetwood hails from Southport, made it a six-way tie for second, but Velasco took the first-day honors. The 30-year-old won the 2010 Challenge Tour, but lost his card on the main circuit last year.

"I was consistent all day and putted very well," Velasco said. "If you hit it in the right spots the course is quite easy, but if you're in the wrong place it's easy to get in trouble.

"I can't remember the last time I made such a good start to a tournament.''

Fleetwood's opening effort was a 14-stroke improvement on his opening 80 in the Spanish Open last week.

"I've been saying for a while that I'm very close to playing great,'' he said. "The longest putt I had for birdie all round was about four feet."

Three-time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty, who made only one cut last year and was another to lose his card, had a 69, while Bradley Dredge, who shot 60 in winning the same event in 2003, had a 72 like fellow Welshman Phillip Price.