Paul Casey defied conditions and a golf course to maintain the lead since the celebrity trio struggled on day one in the Porsche European Open.
Casey birdied five of the final eight holes at the Green Eagle Golf Club in Hamburg to cover a high quality, six-under 66 and also make a one-shot lead within an in-form Matthias Schwab, whereas Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar all finished the round over par.
Schauffele is best placed on a single over, with Kuchar and Reed, who birdied the last three holesone stroke further back, although a two-over 74 was still good enough to get a place in the top 50 as only 22 players conquer the level of 72.
This was an indication of how good Casey’s 66 was, the Englishman starting with a birdie before hitting out of his lone bogey of the round in the sixth with an excellent approach into the seventh and a putt to coincide.
Casey picked up a second shot at the long 11th before creating back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 and, even though he was unable to take advantage of the long 15th, he atoned in the 16th and 18th in an unusual final stretch where three of their last four holes would be par-fives.
The Ryder Cup star will sleep about the lead before Schwab, who continued to produce the kind that has earned the finishes at the Czech Republic and Switzerland last week, where he led a star-studded field following an opening 63.
Schwab’s card featured four birdies and an eagle in the 15th, while falling just one shot a day where just two players returned bogey-free rounds, although he was not able to make his four in the ninth – his final – since he settled for second spot ahead of Ben Stow, Bob MacIntyre along with Max Rottluff.
Stow set the target below despite starting his circular at the 10th, the Englishman because he belied his lowly standing of 274th to Dubai about the Rush enjoying an remarkable recovery with an eagle at 15 along with four birdies with a six.
Rising Scottish gift MacIntyre, runner-up double this season and sixth at The 148th Open, rolled in his sixth birdie putt of the day in the ninth to complete his 68, although the highlight of Rottluff’s opener was a pitch in for an eagle-two in the forefront since he led the house battle.
England’s Ben Evans birdied three of the last five holes to match the earlier 69s of both Alex Bjork along with Lucas Herbert, however Schauffele, Reed and Kuchar have some ground to make up after all left starts.
Schauffele started using a six at the 10th but made five birdies in seven holes across a blemish in the 16th because 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 also failed to add to his own birdie tally as he signed for a 73.
Kuchar birdied the last to go back a 74, while former champions winner Reed endured a torrid start when he triple-bogeyed the next and was five over with three to play with, however, he dug deep to birdie 16, 17 and 18 to overthrow a 74 and give himself a few positive momentum to take into his early beginning on Friday.