PAUL Casey defied testing conditions at Green Eagle Golf Courses to card a stunning six-under par 66, to take a one-stroke lead into the second round of the Porsche European Open.
Surrey’s four-time Ryder Cup player carded five birdies on the back nine, adding to gains made on the first and seventh holes, to sit one stroke ahead of Austria’s Matthias Schwab, who carded a bogey-free round of five under par.
Casey who has won 12 more times since his first win on the European Tour at Gleneagles in 2001, said: “It was a really good round of golf.
“There were a couple of putts that slipped by, but that is such a difficult golf course. I was happy with the patience I was showing and the quality of strike, considering I hadn’t played well in the pro-am.
“Now I stand here happier. The score doesn’t really do it justice – that’s one of the finest rounds of golf I’ve played this year,” added the four-time Ryder Cup player.
“I prefer it when it’s hot. I’ve always been a very good driver and I’m a good long-iron player – that was demonstrated today.
“The three-iron I hit into the 14th was good. It suits me, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I like easier golf courses, but this is the Porsche European Open – it is meant to be difficult.
“I’m here for a competition and I’m here because I want to win,” said Casey, who has four top fives and four top 10s in Germany, playing in the BMW International and Linde German Masters.
Matthias Schwab, who finished tied for eighth last week in the Omega European Masters at Crans, said: “It was a very good round for me.
“It was tough conditions – rain, really strong wind and sun every now and then. I managed to adjust well, I made some good shots and made some good putts – I’m happy with my score.
“I’m happy with only one bogey on my scorecard, added the Austrian, who is still seeking his maiden European Tour victory in his second full season on Tour.
Schwab added: “I had a four-week break and that came at the right time. I took some time off and worked on my game a bit, that seems to have paid off.”
Just 22 players in the 150-man field finished their first rounds under par after battling wind and rain on the Porsche Nord Course, which is the third-longest visited by the European Tour in 2019.
Wilshire’s Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Stow set the early clubhouse lead on four-under, and was joined on that number by Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and German Max Rottluff.
Stow, the Rushmore Park player who won the English Amateur Strokeplay in 2014 before turning pro in 2015, said: “I worked my ball really well around the golf course.
“I managed it quite well and I chipped and putted really nicely. In these types of conditions you have to chip and putt well.
“I holed some good seven/eight-footers to keep it going and made some good birdies as well,” added Stowe, who missed four months with a serious knee injury before bouncing back with his maiden Challenge Tour win in Prague last summer.
Rottluff is making just his fifth European Tour appearance this week and said: “I played solid off the tee, especially in the wind.
“Finding the fairways was keen and I rolled in a few nice putts, which was a bonus and I managed to get around with a decent score.
“I’ve been in the US for seven years now. Graduated in ’16. Every year I felt like I was getting better in every aspect of the game and off the golf course, in terms of managing myself and travelling.
“I feel like I’ve been developing nicely and to come and shoot a good score is proving to myself that I have been working in the right places.”
Australian Lucas Herbert built on his tied-eighth finish at last week’s Omega European Masters with a three-under par start in Hamburg.
He joined Sweden’s Alexander Björk and Sussex’s Ben Evans in sixth place. Thomas Pieters – winner of last month’s D+D Real Czech Masters – is one of four players four strokes behind Casey on two-under.
For live scoring in round two click here.