Jon Rahm enjoys encouraging start to Open de Espana in Madrid
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 14/04/18 12:11am
Jon Rahm delighted his home fans in Madrid as he ended the first day of the Open de Espana just one stroke behind joint-leaders Paul Dunne and Marc Warren.
Rahm showed little signs of fatigue following a long week at the Masters during his opening five-under 67 in bitterly cold conditions at the Centro Nacional de Golf, while fan favourite Andrew Johnston also made an encouraging start with a 68.
But it was Dunne and Warren who topped the leaderboard after both enjoyed outstanding bursts of scoring after the turn, with Warren just one under after 11 before following birdies at 12 and 13 with further gains at each of the final three holes which saw the Scot set the early clubhouse target at six under.
He was later joined by British Masters champion Dunne, who also found a good rhythm on the inward nine as he birdied 11, 13 and 16 before drilling a superb second to six feet at the par-five last and converting the chance for eagle.
Rahm, who finished fourth at Augusta National last week, admitted his long game was firing better than he had expected as he also eagled the 18th - his ninth - while adding four birdies and making just one bogey at the 17th, where his six-foot putt for par lipped out.
"To be honest, I would have taken anything under par given the fact that I played a lot better than I expected to play," said the world No 4. "My long game was amazing and the driver alone set up two birdies on 13, when I hit it over the green, and on seven, where I got it right up to the green.
"Things like that are a bonus. Hopefully I can keep hitting it tee-to-green the same way and make a few more putts the rest of the week."
Rahm also paid tribute to the greenkeeping staff at the Centro Nacional de Golf, who worked around the clock to get the course in playable condition following heavy rain and unseasonably cold weather in the region.
"They did a fantastic job drying the course," Rahm added. "That's why the scores are not as low as we expected. On the par-fives even, if I had a seven iron I could not have stopped it on the green, you are not going to be able to hit it really close, same on five. So all credit to maintenance, it was amazing to see how good a job they've done."
Rahm is one of 12 players on five under, while Johnston is one shot further adrift after a mixed-bag of a 68 which featured seven birdies and three bogeys.
Johnston is effectively the defending champion this week having won his maiden European Tour title at Valderrama in 2016, but the tournament was not on the schedule last season.
Despite the conditions, 86 of the 156-man field managed to break par on the opening day, but Ryder Cup star Rafael Cabrera-Bello was not among them.