Chris Hanson raced to the turn with a string of birdies before signing for a 3-under-par 32-36=68 in round one of the 100th Open de France at Le Golf National.
That's just two swings behind leader Lucas Bjerregaard although Hanson hit 5-under himself with a birdie at 15. That followed front-nine circles at 4, 6, 7 and 9 although he wobbled at the finish with a double bogey-5 at 16 and a bogey at 18 after he'd grabbed another par breaker at 17. Hanson piped 10 (of 14) fairways, hit 13 greens in regulation and took 27 putts in his opener and is currently T3 on the live leaderboard. The Englishman has made his last five cuts on the European Tour, posting T5 at the Trophee Hassan II (54-hole leader) and T10 in the Lyoness Open during that run.
Local qualifier Mathieu Decottignies-Lafon had a share of the first-round lead at the 100th Open de France before swallowing a double bogey-6 at the 18th and ending with a 3-under-par 33-35=68.
Despite the disappointing finish, it was still a day to remember for the 23-year-old, who is ranked outside the top 1000 in the world. This is just his fifth start on the European Tour, one of those coming here last year when he missed the cut (75-74), so the Frenchman wasn't on the radar when assessing the home challenge this week. Decottignies-Lafon (how French does that sound?!) set the tone for his fun ride around Le Golf National with a birdie at 1 before adding further red at 6, 9, 11 and 12. He overcame a bogey at 14 with another birdie at 16 and was tied for the lead on the 18th tee but needed six swishes to get his ball in the hole. Still, T3 on the live leaderboard and just two behind leader Lucas Bjerregaard is a fine effort for a man who is only 120th on the Challenge Tour standings.
Course horse Francesco Molinari hung up a 3-under-par 33-35=68 in round one of the 100th Open de France and is just two shots behind pacesetter Lucas Bjerregaard.
Molinari is a two-time runner-up at Le Golf National and also finished T6 last year. He'd arrived in Paris on the back of T8 at the Quicken Loans National so he met expectations today. The Italian mixed a birdie at 11 with a bogey at 13 over his first four holes but then made a move with successive circles at 15 and 16. After five pars and a bogey at 4, he finished brightly with par breakers at 5 and 9 to record his 15th round in the 60s at the par 71. Off the tee, he was impressive and split 11 (of 14) fairways. Molinari found 13 greens in regulation, was 3-for-5 in scrambling and took 27 putts. He sits T4 on the live leaderboard.
Lucas Bjerregaard had a hole-in-one at the 210-yard 2nd and parlayed it into a 5-under-par 32-34=66 in the first round of the 100th Open de France, good enough for the early clubhouse lead.
The Dane drained his tee shot with a seven-iron to give his morning lap of Le Golf National a dramatic early boost and added circles at 3, 5 and 6 against a bogey at 4 to leap to 4-under with just a third of his round gone. Inevitably on such a tough course he quietened after that and splashed red at 10 and 14 before ending with three pars and a bogey at 16. Bjerregaard's big hitting certainly helped him today but 5-for-6 scrambling allowed him to make the most of it. He took just 26 putts. Gamers certainly didn't see this coming as he's 0-for-2 in this event having never broken 74 and had also missed four of his last five cuts on the European Tour. Right now, he's a shot clear of Thomas Pieters.
Thomas Pieters overcame the effects of recent thumb tendinitis to post a 4-under-par 32-35=67 in round one of the 100th Open de France, good enough for the early clubhouse lead.
Pieters hasn't been seen since withdrawing from R1 of the Nordea Masters (he was actually noted as a DQ) on June 2 but was on the money at Le Golf National today. The Belgian broke 70 for the first time in seven laps of the par 71 thanks to a morning lap containing five birdies and a single bogey. Three of his circles came on par 3s (11, 16 and 2) while he also picked up shots at 14 and 5, the latter after he'd given one back with a square at 4. Strong scrambling was the key today as Pieters went 5-for-5 after hitting 13 greens in regulation. He piped 9 (of 14) fairways and took 27 putts.
World No. 26 Russell Knox contests his first World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and is grouped the first two rounds with World No. 1 Jason Day and World No. 8 and past champ Adam Scott.
This is the 31-year-old's fourth overall WGC event with all of them coming this season. He won the first WGC event of 2015-16 from the 54-hole co-leader perch, claiming the HSBC Champions by two over Kevin Kisner. It was the Scot's first PGA TOUR title in his 93rd career start and became the first-ever to win a WGC stroke-play event in their inaugural appearance. Knox is a lofty fifth in the FedExCup standings with three top 10s in 17 starts. Besides his win, he finished P2 at the OHL Classic the week after the HSBC, and was T2 at the RBC Heritage. The Jacksonville University alum posted a T23 at the U.S. Open in his most recent action.
South Korea's K.T. Kim is at Firestone Country Club for his third playing of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and heads out at 12:48 p.m. ET on Thursday with England's Paul Casey and Smylie Kaufman of the United States.
This is Kim's ninth WGC event overall with a best of T6 on debut at Firestone CC in 2011. His next best is T24 here as well the following year, so he's had success in Akron, Ohio. The 29-year-old's scoring average in eight career laps over the par-70 layout is 68.83, posting five red numbers and shooting 66 three times. Kim slots 40th in the Official World Golf Ranking and won the Japan Golf Tour money title last year with five wins in 20 events. He's leading the money list again this year with three victories in seven starts. In Kim's most recent action, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open by one on 7-over 73-74=147.
Graham DeLaet is in the published field at this week's Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada.
The 34-year-old is scheduled to return to competition for the first time in six weeks following a missed cut at the Byron Nelson. The early exit at Colonial chased a missed cut at THE PLAYERS and a T77 (tied last) at the Wells Fargo. The Canadian was scheduled to play at Memorial four weeks ago but was a late scratch, alerting his Twitter followers that he was "dealing with incredible anxiety while chipping/pitching..." so a wait-and-see approach is definitely in order. If he does go, it'll be his second start in Reno after a T31 six years ago in 2010.