ROYAL LIVERPOOL’S Matthew Jordan took full advantage of his late invitation to the Betfred British Masters with an impressive opening round of 63 to lead by two shots at Hillside Golf Club.
The 23-year-old Englishman, who lives in nearby Hoylake, only got into the tournament on Sunday and is making just his ninth appearance on the European Tour, but he showed few nerves in a bogey-free nine under par round.
Jordan, who played in the same Walker Cup team as Hampshire’s Scott Gregory, Harry Ellis and Jack Singh-Brar, said: “I just thought, if I get off to a good start, which I did, that just sets the rhythm of the round and you relax and you just get into it. For me, that’s all I concentrated on was trying to start well.
“I found out Sunday I got an invitation which I’m very thankful for, just to have the opportunity. So I got it then and I guess because I’m quite close to home, I’m staying at home, so I’ve been able to rest quite well.
“I guess the later you find out, the better, really, because you start thinking about it.
“I actually managed to shoot 10-under on the Challenge Tour a couple weeks ago. There, I got the feeling how to shoot low. I had shot low prior to this, but on this stage to go and do it and on this kind of course is impressive, to me, anyway.”
Jordan turned professional last September after a fine amateur career that included a Walker Cup appearance in 2017 and a nine-stroke victory in the Lytham Trophy last year.
His love of links golf was again evident with third birdies in his opening four holes, followed by further gains on the sixth and ninth for a front nine of 31, before four more birdies in six holes after the turn.
That left him two shots clear of Hertfordshire’s Matt Wallace, the four-time European Tour winner, and Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult, while former World No. 1 Lee Westwood made a scintillating start to his round with six birdies in his opening seven holes.
The 2007 British Masters champion, who hosted the event at Close House in 2017, is in a four-way share of fourth place on six-under.
“It’s a great start. I haven’t played a lot recently. I’ve played two tournaments in three months, and one of them was the Match Play. I was always going to be a bit rusty, but I didn’t come out like I was rusty. Obviously when you turn up to a golf course you like and you play well and you enjoy playing, that makes a big difference. The wind wasn’t too strong and you know, I holed a few putts early on and I got my scoring going. I felt like I had a bit of momentum.”
Wallace, who turned pro in 2013 after spending a year at the same Jacksonville State University in Alabama where Danny Willett had spent a couple of years between 2006 and 2008, said: “Conditions-wise, it was favourable.
“I think the pins were accessible in areas, but you’ve still got to do it and I’m very happy with that start because I’ve had a few missed cuts and I haven’t played great. I worked hard the last couple weeks and it paid off so I’m very happy.”
This year’s host, Tommy Fleetwood, has taken the tournament back to the coastal town of Southport where he grew up, and the Ryder Cup star gave the home fans plenty to cheer about with an eagle on the second hole – his 11th after starting from the tenth tee – in a four under par 68 to lie in tenth position.
Fleetwood said: “It was nice to get down to the golf, and I enjoyed playing. I felt like I played really well. I felt in control most of the day. So it was good and I enjoyed it.
“A lot of people come out today in that weather that’s pretty cold and wet. I know they are going to do that but still nice to see them and play. I felt more comfortable on the golf course doing something I do week-in and week-out.
“It’s not that I’ve been uncomfortable doing different things, but it’s just a different experience and doing something you’re not used to and that gave me a little bit more nerves than normal, and just a little bit more pride in the event and hope it goes well.
“Now the golf’s started, I really enjoyed today. I felt like I had a good rhythm in my swing and I was hitting a lot of good shots.”