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Sicilian Open: Godfather of Scottish contingent at home in Sicily

On day one of the Sicilian Open it was perhaps appropriate that Gary Orr, the Godfather of the Scottish golfing posse out here on Italy's largest island, spearheaded a purposeful early assault by the Scots at the Verdura resort.

Gary Orr made an encouraging start in Sicily to lie in sixth place after a round of 66. Picture: Getty
Gary Orr made an encouraging start in Sicily to lie in sixth place after a round of 66. Picture: Getty

At 44-years-young, and embarking on his 20th season as a European Tour campaigner, Orr sparkled like the Mediterranean and posted a six-under 66 over a firm and fast links-like course to share sixth place. That put him two shots behind Dublin's early frontrunner, Peter Lawrie.

Orr, a double winner on the European circuit back in 2000, is competing in just his third event of 2012 after regaining his playing rights at last December's qualifying school. The spell with his feet up has clearly given the Helensburgh veteran renewed vigour. A 15-footer for birdie on the 10th – his first – set the tone for the day and successive gains at 14, 15, 16 and 17 propelled him up the order. A couple of dropped shots around the turn upset some of that momentum but a further trio of birdies repaired the damage before he escaped from a fairway bunker on the last and knocked a wedge to within five-feet to safeguard a closing par.

"I'm not ready for retirement yet," said Orr, who was 52nd in Andalucia and 25th in Morocco during his first two outings on the tour. "It may not be far off mind you but we still have a bit left. I hit the ball well in Andalucia and didn't putt well and it was the other way round in Morocco. Today it was all in decent shape."

Things certainly didn't appear in decent shape for Orr's compatriot, Alastair Forsyth, as he opened his challenge with bogeys at the first and second. A start like that could have had the Paisley man bubbling and boiling like a furious Mount Etna but he kept the lid on his emotions and was swiftly rewarded as his round erupted into life. The salvage operation began on the par-three third when he cushioned a seven-iron to a couple of feet for birdie before launching a three-wood into the long fourth and trundling in a 15-footer for an eagle-three. He was four-under by the turn and six-under playing the last and, despite a spilled shot on the 18th, the two-time tour winner was more than content.

"I played the first two holes horribly," said Forsyth, who added that he still has the "begging bowl" out for invitations as he tries to bolster a limited playing schedule. "A start like that is the last thing you need but you learn that golf is over 72-holes not two. The birdie on the third saved the day."

Stirling's Craig Lee also endured a sticky start with a leaked shot on his first hole but, inspired by the calming views out into the sea, the 34-year-old ensured there were no further perils on the tee as he joined Forsyth on the 67 mark.

"How can you get mad about golf when you have views like we do here," suggested Lee, who has made a solid return to the main tour with three top-20 finishes in his first four events.

Scott Jamieson, out in the very first match when temperatures were chilly and the ball lost some of its distance in the cold conditions, shrugged off that early hindrance and pieced together a four-under 68. He was joined on the fringes of the leading 20 by former tour champion Raymond Russell, who enjoyed a bogey-free 68.

At the sharp end of affairs, Lawrie gave his slow start to the new season more of a "kick up the arse" than a shot in the arm with a 64 which thrust him into a one-stroke advantage over Jamie Donaldson, Tano Goya and Soren Kjeldsen.

The 38-year-old, whose one and only tour win arrived in the 2008 Spanish Open, has missed four of six cuts this season but he roared back to form with a nine-birdie round.

"I gave myself a right good kick up the arse and determination more than anything got me that score," he said. "I also holed two 20-footers, something I didn't do all last season and I hadn't done so far this year."

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