Espen Kofstad leads ISPS Handa Wales Open by two after first round

Espen Kofstad at the ISPS Handa Wales Open
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Espen Kofstad leads the ISPS Handa Wales Open after posting a 64 playing in the first group of the day.
Bernie McGuire
Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 | 4:22 p.m.

NEWPORT, Wales – Espen Kofstad of Norway closed his round with three straight birdies and an eagle, shooting a 7-under 64 Thursday that gave him a two-stroke lead after the first day of the ISPS Handa Wales Open on the European Tour. 

Kofstad, ranked No. 305, went out in the first group of the day and concluded his round at Celtic Manor by making a bunker shot. 

England's Chris Wood and Australia's Richard Green shot 66s on the Twenty Ten Course, which hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup. 

The Wales Open is the first in the qualification process for the 2014 Ryder Cup against the United States at Gleneagles in Scotland. 

Europe Captain Paul McGinley took the first shot of the tournament and finished with a 70, but was outclassed by playing partner Kofstad. 

"What a way to finish – birdie, birdie, birdie and then eagle is just fantastic," McGinley said. "Espen hit it a million miles, hit a lot of fairways, played very well and deserved that score." 

The 25-year-old Kofstad has had a rough first year on the European Tour. He missed nine cuts in a row starting in April and has dealt with a neck injury. 

"I have been very, very calm the last two weeks," Kofstad said. "I started to settle down a bit as I was a bit stressed and tentative, and wasn't able to practice as much as I wanted to because of my neck injury." 

Italy's Francesco Molinari, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 43, shot a 73. 

Defending champion Thongchai Jaidee, who needs a strong finish here to qualify for the International Team in the Presidents Cup, had a 71. Jaidee is hoping to become the first Thai-born player to play the Presidents Cup, which starts Oct. 3 in Dublin, Ohio. 

Former British Open champion Darren Clarke slumped to his second-worst round this year, shooting 78 on the course where three years ago he was a Ryder Cup vice captain.