Lawrie sets course record to lead by one after first round of Sicilian Open

Peter Lawrie at the Sicilian Open
Getty Images
Peter Lawrie missed the cut last week in Morocco, but bounced back in style at the Sicilian Open on Thursday.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012 | 2:47 p.m.

Practice made perfect for Ireland's Peter Lawrie on Thursday as he carded a course-record 64 to claim the lead after the first round of the Sicilian Open on the European Tour.

Lawrie carded nine birdies and just one bogey at Verdura Golf and Spa Resort to finish 8 under par, one ahead of Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Argentina's Tano Goya.

The 38-year-old Dubliner missed the cut in last week's Hassan II Trophy after rounds of 69 and 76, but bounced back in style as he looks to add to his sole European Tour title at the Spanish Open in 2008.

"I'm delighted after last week," Lawrie said. "I got it to 4 or 5 under and unfortunately played 12 holes in 5 over on Saturday and walked off the golf course devastated. But I came here and really practiced hard over the last couple of days and I'm delighted that I actually holed a few putts today.

"It's forgiving off the tee here, I have to admit, but the design is very good and the ball is running on the fairways so it makes us short hitters have some good chances," he explained. "The closing holes you can make a few birdies, but you just have to watch that 18th hole, it's a daunting tee shot. The water is certainly in your mind when you tee off."

Lawrie saved par from 10 feet on the 18th after finding a greenside bunker with his approach to the 475-yard par 4, with his only bogey of the day coming on the 13th.

And asked about his approach for the rest of the tournament, he added: "Just keep on plodding away.

"You can't win a tournament on Thursday as they always say but you can lose it. I'm not going to get ahead of myself," he said. "I'm out early tomorrow, which is good for me, I'll try to post a number and let everyone shoot at it tomorrow afternoon."

Kjeldsen had earlier set the clubhouse target with a 65 containing an eagle, six birdies and one bogey, while Donaldson -- aiming for his first European Tour success in his 249th attempt -- matched it with a flawless effort featuring five birdies and an eagle.

The 36-year-old Donaldson is certainly in low-scoring form after firing three eagles in a closing 61 to finish third in the Hassan Trophy on Sunday.

There were contrasting fortunes for John Daly and Costantino Rocca, with the duo who fought out a playoff for the 1995 British Open title paired together here 17 years after their battle at St. Sndrews.

The American enjoyed the better day with a 1-under round of 71, while Rocca – now 55 years old and a regular on the European Senior Tour – shot a 5-over-par 77.

Eighteen-year-old Matteo Manassero, at 61st the highest-ranked player in the field, carded a 72.