Career low for Cañizares in Morocco

GOLF

Alejandro Cañizares carded a career-low round of 62 to claim the lead after the first round of the Trophée Hassan II.

Cañizares made light of the stiff afternoon breeze to fire 11 birdies and one bogey in a scintillating display at Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir, where the Spaniard leads by one shot from England’s Seve Benson.

“It was one of those days for me, my swing felt great, I started putting well and the putts went in,” said Cañizares, whose previous low on The European Tour was a 63 in the 2007 Hong Kong Open and the 2009 KLM Open.

“After today the confidence is high, but it hasn’t been there for the last month. After Dubai I started losing a little bit of form, but this game is up and down so you can’t expect the best all the time.

“I was lucky that after a couple of sessions with my coach and a putting session with Phil Kenyon this week, I’m starting to perform much better.

“It’s definitely one of the best rounds I’ve ever played. I missed a couple of drives and from the fairway I missed one shot that cost me a bogey, but that was about it I think.”

Benson, who was named after the late Seve Ballesteros, carded a flawless 63 that featured birdies at his last four holes.

“It felt pretty good to be honest”, said the 27 year old, who is seeking to claim a first European Tour title in his 104th event. “It was so windy out there on the back nine that pars were a good score, but I just managed to play the tough holes well and sink some putts coming in.

“Capitalising on my chances is the big thing for me. I have been working really hard with my putting coach and it paid off today. I’m very proud of the way I played today, because it wasn’t easy in that wind.”

The brilliant scoring from Cañizares and Benson kept American Connor Arendell off the top of the leaderboard. Arendell finished eighth at the Qualifying School Final Stage in November to earn his card for this season, but missed the cut in his first four events of 2014. His round of 67 was comfortably the lowest of his fledgling European Tour career.

“It’s a great start,” said the 23 year old from Florida.

“It’s my first time here, and I love the place. I’d heard good things from some of the guys coming out here, so I knew a little what to expect but it’s surprised me how good the golf course is. I don’t think I’ve seen a single divot all week! It’s in unbelievable condition, and to be playing inside the palace is pretty special. There are some very tough holes out there, particularly on the front nine, but if you can get through those then you can take advantage on the back nine.”

Arendell is following in the footsteps of the likes of Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka in swapping America for Europe.

He added: “I emailed Peter a while back to get his advice, so that was very helpful. I played a fair bit of junior golf with Peter and Brooks, so I know them reasonably well. They’ve done unbelievably well so far, so hopefully some of that success will rub off on me.”

Arendell’s 65 was matched by Sweden’s Magnus A Carlsson, with English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Andy Sullivan and Scot Marc Warren a shot further back on six under. Defending champion Marcel Siem, who missed Wednesday’s pro-am with a neck injury, returned a 69.

Scores after round  1:

62 A Cañizares  (Esp) ,

 63 S Benson (Eng) ,

 65 C Arendell (USA) , M Carlsson  (Swe) ,

 66 M Warren (Sco) , T Fleetwood  (Eng) , A Sullivan (Eng) ,

 67 G Bhullar (Ind) , P Whiteford (Sco) ,

 68 G Bourdy (Fra) , R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) , S Dodd (Wal) , R Davies (Wal) , M Hoey  (Nir) , W Ormsby (Aus) , E Dubois (Fra) ,

 69 L Bjerregaard  (Den) , G Coetzee (RSA) , R Bland (Eng) , M Siem  (Ger) , T Lewis (Eng) , R Derksen (Ned) , J Morrison  (Eng) , M Ilonen  (Fin) , C Yuan (am) (Chn) ,

 70 R Kakko  (Fin) , F Calmels  (Fra) , N Elvira  (Esp) , A Otaegui  (Esp) , R Green (Aus) , S Kapur (Ind) , P Sjöland (Swe) , A Levy (Fra) , R Fisher (Eng) , A Hartø  (Den) , D McGrane (Irl) , E De La Riva  (Esp) ,

 71 D Stewart (Sco) , B Paolini (USA) , R Rock (Eng) , B Wiesberger  (Aut) , M Crespi  (Ita) , R Jacquelin (Fra) , M Baldwin (Eng) , R Karlsson (Swe) , M Kieffer (Ger) , M Ito (Jpn) , R Dinwiddie  (Eng) , D Im (USA) , J Campillo (Esp) ,

 72 R Ramsay  (Sco) , J Van Zyl (RSA) , Y El Hassani (Mar) , D Howell (Eng) , J Hansen  (Den) , A Saddier (Fra) , S Lowry  (Irl) , S Wakefield (Eng) , D Horsey (Eng) , G Havret  (Fra) , A Kaleka  (Fra) , J Lima  (Por) , F Zanotti (Par) , S Kim (Kor) , D Willett  (Eng) , F Fritsch  (Ger) , P Waring  (Eng) , J Heath  (Eng) , J Lara (Esp) , S Khan (Eng) , D Brooks (Eng) ,

 73 B Rumford (Aus) , J Dantorp (Swe) , S Dyson  (Eng) , S Thornton (Irl) , G Stal  (Fra) , E Goya (Arg) , E Molinari  (Ita) , D Drysdale (Sco) , T Hatton (Eng) ,

 74 R Santos  (Por) , S Kjeldsen (Den) , N Fasth (Swe) , J Doherty  (Sco) , E Pepperell (Eng) , G Storm  (Eng) , S Hansen (Den) , M Tullo (Chi) , D Huizing (Ned) , R Wattel  (Fra) ,

 75 C Lee (Sco) , M Lundberg (Swe) , C Del Moral (Esp) , J Carlsson (Swe) , K Broberg (Swe) , J Olazábal (Esp) ,

 76 F Serghini  (Mar) , M Foster (Eng) , P McGinley (Irl) , J Hahn (USA) , D Higgins (Irl) , A Forsyth (Sco) , K Phelan (Irl) , T Pieters  (Bel) , C Wood  (Eng) , P Lawrie (Irl) , S Walker (Eng) ,

 77 A Gee  (Eng) , J Knutzon (USA) , M Schneider (Ger) , A Pavan (Ita) ,

 78 J McLeary  (Sco) , Z Scotland  (Eng) ,

 79 P Larrazábal (Esp) , C Doak (Sco) , M Korhonen (Fin) , V Riu  (Fra) , J Kingston (RSA) ,

 80 M Nixon (Eng) , J Parry (Eng) , S Manley (Wal) ,

 81 A Joudar (Mar) ,

 82 M Madsen  (Den) , A Lguirati (am) (Mar) ,

 84 Y Ali  (Eng) ,

 ** A Wall (Eng)

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