(Reuters) – George Coetzee and Ryan Fox carded six-under-par 65s to share the lead in the French Open first round on Thursday as the European Tour returned to Le Golf National in Paris a year after the course hosted the Ryder Cup.
Making the most of good scoring conditions in the morning, Coetzee started with two birdies and picked up three more shots from the sixth hole to surge ahead as he reached the turn in 31.
The 33-year-old South African sank two more birdies on the back nine before dropping his only shot on the penultimate green.
Coetzee has four victories on the European Tour and finished runner-up at the Qatar Masters this season.
“It was almost perfect,” said Coetzee, who finished with his best opening round score of the year.
“I played really well. It’s nice to be in the mix again. It’s been kind of a hard, long year but it feels like the game is coming along nicely.”
Fox, son of former New Zealand rugby international Grant, carded four birdies in five holes on the front nine, and after offsetting a birdie on the 12th with his only bogey at the next, produced another solid putt to pick up a stroke on the 16th.
The World Super 6 champion had a great chance of taking the lead on his own but missed his birdie putt from eight feet on the final green.
“I played really solid today. This is a golf course that can kick you pretty quickly,” Fox said.
“I could have potentially grabbed a couple more on those last four, which is always a bonus, but very happy to walk away with a 65 around here.”
Home favorite Benjamin Herbert finished with a birdie on the last to sign for an impressive 66 and sit one shot off the lead alongside American Kurt Kitayama and Scot Richie Ramsay.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)