Slattery leads Wales Open as winds push many scores into 80s and above

Lee Slattery
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Lee Slattery carded a 67 to lead the way Thursday at the ISPS Handa Wales Open, but he was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580-yard ninth.
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 3:01 p.m.

NEWPORT, Wales -- Lee Slattery defied a sore wrist to shoot an opening round 4-under-par 67 and lead the ISPS Handa Wales Open in windy conditions on Thursday.

And if that doesn’t sound special, consider this -- there were more than a dozen scores in the 80s and one in the 90s, and handful of players had a 10 off their cards. Gary Boyd even had two.

A stiff wind and fast-running conditions made life tough on the course where Europe beat the United States two years ago in a Ryder Cup remembered not just for its thrilling finish, but also its torrential rain.

Slattery struggled with a wrist injury during last week's BMW PGA Championship in England, and that contributed to him missing the cut. But the Englishman made any wrist pain look meaningless with the tough pin positions at Celtic Manor.

"I've been working really hard recently trying to control my ball flight a little bit more," he said. "Today was a good test for it. In general I hit a lot of strong-flighted shots and that really helps out there."

Slattery's round was not without its scary moments. He was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580-yard ninth.

"It was very difficult," he said. "The wind was stronger than anticipated and if you get round without a bogey, it's an amazing achievement."

Nobody did.

Slattery won his first European Tour title last year at the Madrid Masters, and qualified for the U.S. Open on Monday at Walton Heath to make his first tournament on American soil.

"I can't wait. I think it is more the atmosphere and playing in front of that sort of crowd," he said. "I remember playing in the British Open at Hoylake. That was a great week and I thrived off the pressure. I am hoping to do the same that week."

Marcel Siem of Germany was second after a 3-under 68.

"It was tough, it was gusty, so 3 under is good," Siem said. "I enjoy playing this golf course. The greens are firm, which suits my ball flight and you have to think your way around."

Ryder Cup hopeful Paul Lawrie struggled to master the windy conditions, needed to birdie two of his last three holes for a 74, the same as 2010 Captain Colin Montgomerie, while his successor Jose Maria Olazabal took 76. Miguel Angel Jimenez, who played a part in the 2012 Ryder Cup, also struggled with a 76.

Defending champion Alex Noren withdrew with a back complaint after posting a 10-over 81. Noren qualified for the U.S. Open alongside Slattery, but it was unknown whether his injury will allow him to compete in the second major of the year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in two weeks.

Boyd of England had to retire injured, too, complaining of dizzy spells after carding 10s at the par-4 5th and 17th holes in a round of 17 over.