BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) - A magical burst of scoring either side of the turn helped Nicolas Colsaerts fire a 64 as the Belgian sprinted into a share of the lead after the first round of the $7 million (£5.3 million) Turkish Airlines Open on Thursday.
The former Ryder Cup player reeled off an eagle and six birdies in an inspired 12-hole run from the fourth to join Dutchman Joost Luiten and Haydn Porteous of South Africa on seven-under-par.
One stroke adrift on 65 were evergreen Irishman Padraig Harrington and Andres Romero of Argentina, who had a brief scare when Richard Sterne wandered off without signing his playing partner’s card.
The South African had to be reminded of his obligations and returned to the recorder’s hut a short time later to fulfil his duties.
Colsaerts, one of the biggest hitters on the European Tour, said his performance was largely down to a recent decision to switch the longest club in his bag.
“I’ve changed to another Callaway driver,” the 34-year-old told reporters at the picturesque Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort that overlooks the Mediterranean.
“It seems like I can do what I want with this one. I’m really happy with the way it’s been going.
“Once I’m comfortable off the tee, I’m always going to be up there,” said Colsaerts who made his one and only Ryder Cup appearance in 2012, the year he achieved the last of his two victories on the European Tour.
On a day of glorious sunshine and barely any wind, Luiten produced a bogey-free round that contained birdies at the first, fifth, seventh, ninth, 12th, 13th and 16th, where he holed out from off the putting surface.
“That’s a bonus,” said the 31-year-old Dutchman. “I basically hit the wrong club into the green and to walk away with a birdie, that’s maybe two shots difference.
“That’s what you need sometimes, to hole shots like that and get away with it. That keeps the round going,” added Luiten who registered the last of his five victories at the 2016 KLM Open on home soil.
Porteous, winner of the Czech Masters in August, also claimed seven birdies in another faultless round.
The 23-year-old South African is not yet certain of a place in the money-spinning season finale in Dubai in two weeks’ time but Thursday’s round has given him the perfect confidence boost.
“I needed a really big start and put myself on the right foot heading into these next couple of weeks to get me into the DP World Championship,” he said. “To shoot a bogey-free 64 is exactly what I was looking for.”
England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who has a lead of more than 850,000 points at the top of the money-list, opened his campaign with a level-par 71.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, in second spot, is missing this week but third-placed Justin Rose, fresh from his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China on Sunday, carded a 69.
Rose’s fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, fifth in the money-list, returned a 67, as did former world number one Lee Westwood.
Ian Poulter was among a group of four players on 66.
Editing by Toby Davis