Ryder Cup hopeful Hanson trails by one after first round of Czech Open

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Peter Hanson, currently 15th in the Ryder Cup standings, would oust Paul Casey from the list of Europe's top nine automatic qualifiers with a victory.
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Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010 | 4:58 p.m.

Shiv Kapur of India shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the European Tour’s Czech Open on Thursday.

Sweden’s Peter Hanson, a Ryder Cup hopeful, and Argentine Tano Goya both shot 67 to sit tied for second.

Kapur, seeking his first win on the European Tour, produced six birdies in a row and eight in total at the Prosper Golf Resort in the northeastern part of the country.

“I was 6 under through my first seven holes so it would have been nice to have added some birdies on the back nine,” he said. “But golfers are never happy.”

Following a near perfect start, Kapur had two consecutive bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes before fighting back with birdies on the 16th and 18th.

“I’ve never grown up on courses like this -- I did on flat courses -- but it suits my game as it is not a course that rewards long hitters,” Kapur said.

The year has so far been a disappointment for Kapur after the way he finished 2009, with consecutive top-10s at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open, where he was runner-up. This year he’s made it to the weekend only seven times in 19 events, and missed his last three cuts.

Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, who co-designed the 7,155-yard course, carded a 71.

“It’s not much of an advantage knowing the course as people practice a couple of days and get to know it,” said Jimenez, who is also hoping to nail down his Ryder Cup spot, and seeking his third victory of the year.

Next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Scotland is the final event in the race for the nine automatic Europe Ryder Cup spots.

Hanson, 32, would oust Paul Casey from the list of Europe's top nine automatic Ryder Cup qualifiers with a victory. Hanson currently lies 15th in the points race, but as one of only two players in the world's top 50 in the field, he sees this as a golden opportunity.

Englishmen Simon Dyson, Oliver Wilson and Ross McGowan are also chasing a spot on Colin Montgomerie's side and they shot 70, 72 and 73 respectively.

Asked about the controversial decision of Casey -- and also Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald, both of whom are just outside a qualifying spot -- not to enter next week's race-ending Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Hanson clearly stated his view.

"If you have a chance to make the team or especially if you want a pick (like Justin Rose, another stay-away), it might be good to play," he said.

After two weeks in America during which he was eighth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational -- that made him top European -- Hanson made the long trip after asking for and receiving a sponsor's invitation on Monday.

"That gave me the chance to get into the team and the tournament organizers have been very nice to me," he added. "If I could put myself in position come Sunday, it would be fantastic."

Kapur led from the moment he had six successive birdies from the second after teeing off at 7:20 a.m.

"I think I was half-asleep and woke up around the turn," said the 28-year-old Indian, who has missed his last three halfway cuts and seven of the last nine.

Kapur, ranked 256th in the world and 100th on the European Tour this season, started the inward half with back-to-back bogeys, but then birdied the 16th and 18th to hold off the chasing pack.

Dyson shook off jet lag -- he could not get a flight back from the States until Monday night and then flew on to Prague and caught a train to Ostrava -- with four closing birdies.

"It was great to finish that way," said the York golfer, who tied for 12th with Casey in the PGA Championship. "I played the pro-am and was shattered, but got a good night's sleep."

McGowan, 11th on the points table and needing to come fourth to overtake Casey, started and ended with a double bogey, but the 16 holes in between were good enough to suggest he might yet have a say in things. Last year's Dubai World Championship runner-up has had wrist and shoulder injuries and made a late decision to play rather than rest.