Marc Warren’s renaissance looks like continuing on familiar territory while Connor Syme continued his strong starts in UK Swing events as the European Tour returned to Celtic Manor after a six-year gap for the Celtic Classic.
The European Tour also announced its first positive Covid-19 test since restarting a month ago – Alex Levy, the Frenchman, had already withdrawn when he informed tour officials he’d come into contact with someone whilst at home in France who had since tested positive.
Levy was tested negative when he arrived in Newport, but then got the news of his friend’s infection and was isolated. He was subsequently tested again, this time producing a positive result. Countryman Romain Wattel and Levy’s caddie had been in contact with the player and although both tested negative for the virus, they have gone into isolation, Wattel withdrawing from the tournament.
Warren’s excellent five-under 66 was also a little odd – he was two-over for the four par-fives on the 2010 Ryder Cup course, usually places where you’d look to be picking up strokes. It left him two shots behind former Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters, the Belgian playing for the first time in five months and shooting a seven-under 64.
Pieters is a new father, and perhaps those duties is why he’s still sporting much of the “lockdown lid”, drawing instant comparisons to Tommy Fleetwood’s flowing locks.
“My mum said the same, my girlfriend says the same and I have just been really lazy,” he said. “I don’t feel like sitting at the hairdressers for two hours, so we will see, if someone wants to cut it go ahead.”
Two hours? There must be a barber in Newport that could take care of it a lot quicker than that.
His highlight was a chip-in for a birdie at the 17th, “a little Pete Cowen special, grass against us, downhill but I hit my spot, and luckily it went in”.
Connor Syme had just one bogey in his 68 but unlike Warren capitalised on the long holes, picking up three of his birdies on them, including one at the last.
The Drumoig player has had strong starts at three of the UK Swing events, having played in all four so far.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “This is my fourth event in a row and I normally don’t like playing more than four in a row. But I still feel fine, having had a long break during lockdown.
“I’ve still got to decide if I’m going to play next week. It will be based on my result this week – as a pro, I’ve learned that it’s important to manage your energy and I will definitely have to do that the next couple of weeks if I’m going to keep playing.”
Edoardo Molinari, with Ross Fisher the only survivors of Colin Montgomerie’s 2010 team in the field, shot a five-under 66 on his return to Celtic Manor.
Of the other Scots, Richie Ramsay (69) and Calum Hill (70) had under-par starts, while Stephen Gallacher, returning to play for the first time since the untimely loss of his father Jim last month, had a two-over 73.