Backstrom fires albatross to take early lead in Moscow

NAKHABINO, Russia Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:44pm BST

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NAKHABINO, Russia (Reuters) - Sweden's Joakim Backstrom shot a seven-under par 65 helped by an albatross to take an early one-stroke lead at the Russian Open on Thursday.

The Swede, who began his first round on the 10th hole, fired an albatross on the par five 561-yard 15th and also had six birdies to lead South African Darren Fichardt.

"It was slightly into the breeze from the right so I thought that a hard four iron would do it," Backstrom said after holing the ball with his second shot.

"I hit it well and it pitched on the green and then disappeared, but people sitting around the green didn't really react. They gave me a clap but not the kind of reaction that you would expect for an albatross so I wasn't sure what happened.

"But when I walked up to the green and it was there in the hole. Thank you very much! Five-under after six holes, it was a great start."

It was not the first time Backstrom had hit an albatross.

"I also made one in Cologne three years ago at the German Masters. Hopefully, I can make a habit of it," said the 30-year-old who has struggled lately and has only one European Tour victory at the 2005 St Omer Open to his credit.

DALY INJURED

Six players -- Frenchman Francois Delamontagne, Britons Garry Houston and Sion Bebb and a trio of Spaniards, Luis Claverie, Jose Manuel Lara and Carl Suneson -- shared third place on five-under 67.

Former twice major winner John Daly was five strokes back at two-under par 70 despite nursing a painful wrist injury.

"I struggled a little bit but managed to get it to two under," said the American. "I had some bad shots and some decent ones and then made a few putts coming down the stretch so I am not too disappointed.

"It's probably the best that I could have got considering how badly I hit at times. But I hope to get it better. We'll come back tomorrow and see what happens."

The players enjoyed perfect weather condition on the first day with glorious sunshine and almost no wind at the Moscow Country Club in suburban Nakhabino.

Former world tennis number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov, playing in his second Russian Open after making his European Tour debut last year, was among the afternoon starters in the first round.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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