Paul Casey leads European Open as American stars struggle in first round
Casey's five-birdie back-nine earns outright lead, but Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar all struggle to make an impression
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 05/09/19 6:58pm
Paul Casey defied chilly conditions and a tough golf course to claim the outright lead at the Porsche European Open as the star American trio all struggled on day one.
Casey birdied five of the last eight holes at the Green Eagle Golf Club in Hamburg to cap a high-quality, six-under 66 and earn a one-shot lead over an in-form Matthias Schwab, while Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar all ended the round over par.
Schauffele is best placed on one over, with Kuchar and Reed, who birdied the last three holes, one stroke further back, although a two-over 74 was still good enough for a place in the top 50 as only 22 players beat the par of 72.
That was an indication of how good Casey's 66 was, the Englishman opening with a birdie before hitting back from his lone bogey of the round at the sixth with an excellent approach into the seventh and a putt to match.
Casey picked up another shot at the long 11th before making back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 and, although he was unable to take advantage of the long 15th, he atoned at the 16th and 18th in an unusual closing stretch in which three of the final four holes are par-fives.
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The Ryder Cup star will sleep on the outright lead ahead of Schwab, who continued to produce the form that has earned the Austrian back-to-back top-eight finishes in the Czech Republic and Switzerland last week, where he led a star-studded field after an opening 63.
Schwab's card featured four birdies and an eagle at the 15th, while dropping only one shot on a day in which only two players returned bogey-free rounds, although he was unable to make his four at the ninth - his last - as he settled for second place ahead of Ben Stow, Bob MacIntyre and Max Rottluff.
Stow set the early target at four under despite beginning his round with a double-bogey six at the 10th, the Englishman enjoying an impressive recovery with an eagle at 15 and four birdies as he belied his lowly ranking of 274th on the Race to Dubai.
Rising Scottish talent MacIntyre, runner-up twice this season and sixth at The 148th Open, rolled in his sixth birdie putt of the day at the ninth to complete his 68, while the highlight of Rottluff's opener was a pitch in for an eagle-two at the seventh as he led the home challenge.
England's Ben Evans birdied three of his last five holes to match the earlier 69s of Alex Bjork and Lucas Herbert, but Schauffele, Reed and Kuchar have some ground to make up after all made erratic starts.
Schauffele started with a six at the 10th but then made five birdies in seven holes around a blemish at the 16th as he reached two under at the turn, but the world No 9 - the highest-ranked player in the field this week - blotted his card three times on the front nine and failed to add to his birdie tally as he signed for a 73.
Kuchar birdied the last to return a 74, while former Masters champion Reed endured a torrid start when he triple-bogeyed the third and was five over with three to play, but he dug deep to birdie 16, 17 and 18 to salvage a 74 and give himself some positive momentum to take into his early start on Friday.