Karlsson claims share of Portugal lead

Former European No. 1 Robert Karlsson made a strong start to his

bid for his second title this year as he claimed a share of the

lead following the first round of the Portugal

Masters on Thursday.

The Swedish golfer, whose only success this season came in Qatar

in January, shot an eight-under-par 64 at the Oceanico Victoria

Golf Course on the Algarve to be level with compatriot Johan Edfors

and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber.

Alexander Noren, another Swede, was tied for fourth with

Finland’s Mikko Ilonen on 65 in a field missing injured defending

champion Lee Westwood, who has a calf problem.

But his European Ryder Cup teammates Ross Fisher and Edoardo

Molinari both shot 68, while Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez

carded 70 and another Celtic Manor hero Francesco Molinari made a

disappointing 74.

Starting on the back nine, Karlsson began with a birdie and

fired three more before the turn, then three in succession before

another at the sixth in a flawless round.

“I think with this kind of setup, with not so much rough, that’s

very often what we play in Sweden,” world No. 39 Karlsson, who

topped the money list two years ago, told the European Tour


“It’s a bit similar to Swedish golf, and the speed of the greens

as well are not super fast. I think we are very used to playing

this type of golf on our home courses where we grew up.”

Edfors, ranked 119th in the world, also fired three birdies in a

row — from nine to 11 — in a similarly flawless round as he seeks

his first title of 2010 and fourth on the European Tour.

“If the wind stays down, this is one of the courses you can

shoot, especially now when the rough is down as well. So without

wind, the 59 is possible,” he said, referring to golf’s benchmark

low score, which has never been carded on the European Tour.

Lafeber, whose only win on the circuit came on home soil in

2003, shot 11 birdies after starting on the back nine — but a

double-bogey six at 18 after another dropped shot at 13 stopped him

taking the outright lead.

Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion who has slumped to

1,329 in the world rankings, posted an encouraging 67 to be in a

big group tied for eighth.

The New Zealander has had a miserable season, but managed a

bogey-free round to boost his hopes of making a halfway cut for the

first time in 18 starts this year.