Open de France: Ryan Fox and George Coetzee tied at the top on day one
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 17/10/19 6:08pm
Ryan Fox and George Coetzee both fired six-under 65s to share the first-round lead at the Amundi Open de France near Paris.
With tournament golf returning to Le Golf National for the first time since Europe's memorable Ryder Cup victory 54 weeks ago, Fox and Coetzee ended day one with a one-shot lead over a group including Richie Ramsay, but defending champion Alex Noren faces a battle to make the cut after an erratic 72.
Coetzee made the most of the good scoring conditions in the early session, while he also defied the distraction of seeing playing-partner and 2012 winner Marcel Siem disqualify himself after the front nine when he was informed he would incur a 10-shot penalty for lifting and placing his ball five times, mistakenly believing preferred lies were in operation.
The South African birdied the first two holes and made three in a row from the sixth, and he picked up further shots at the 10th and 15th before his only bogey of the day at 17 ultimately cost him the outright lead.
Siem disqualifies himself
Marcel Siem thought preferred lies were in operation and incurred 10 shots in penalties over his first nine
Jordan Smith looked on course to surpass Coetzee by some distance when he birdied the first six holes and made another at 10 before mistakes hampered him fading down the stretch, and Fox proved the only player from the later starters to get to six under.
Fox, son of All Blacks legend Grant, capped an outward 31 with four birdies in five holes and, after offsetting a birdie at 12 with his lone blemish at the next, he got back into a share of the lead with another good putt on the 16th green.
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The Kiwi gave himself a great chance of an eighth birdie of the round when he knocked his second to eight feet at the last, but he allowed too much break on the putt and had to settle for a tie at the top with Coetzee.
Ramsay carded six birdies against just one dropped shot in his solid 66 as he looks to cement his place in the 70-man field for the Turkish Airlines Open next month, the Scot arriving in Paris ranked 60th in the Race to Dubai.
Ramsay shares third with Benjamin Hebert and Kurt Kitayama, with 2012 Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts one further back after the Belgian closed out a 67 with his fifth birdie of the day at the long ninth.
Smith was on 59 alert shortly after renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon tweeted that he would "swim the channel naked" to congratulate anyone breaking 60 at Le Golf National.
The Englishman was seven under after 10 and needed five more birdies over the last eight holes to give Kenyon a huge predicament, but his challenge unravelled at the 13th as he ran up a triple-bogey seven.
Smith erred again at the 17th and parred the last to round off a disappointing 68, while Noren at least enjoyed a positive finish to a tough day on his return to the scene of Europe's thumping win over Team USA last year.
Noren nailed the final putt of that contest from 50 feet to spark scenes of wild jubilation, but the Swede was far less euphoric when he slipped to three over with five to play until lifting his spirit when he pitched in for a morale-boosting eagle at the long ninth.