It was a day to make hay while the sun shone. Then again, Romain Langasque whipped up a storming surge that should’ve been accompanied by a series of tightly packed isobars as he hurtled to the top of the field during round one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Those tightly packed thingamajigs were set to wreak havoc today with a particularly grotty forecast forcing tournament officials into a shotgun start in an attempt to limit any disruption caused by Mother Nature’s menacing meddling.
Yesterday, though, it was the calm before the storm. And what a pastoral scene it was. St Andrews was bathed in lovely autumnal sunshine while the lack of wind made the Old Course as vulnerable as a newly born gazelle tottering to its feet within sniffing distance of a pack of salivating hyenas.
Langasque took full advantage of this inviting stage and the Frenchman conjured a shimmering, course-record equalling 11-under 61 to set a rampaging early pace. Raking eagle putts of 40-feet at the fifth and 50-feet on the 12th illuminated a mighty blitz that just about left bits of shrapnel embedded in the hallowed turf. It was a thrilling opening salvo from the 27-year-old as he matched the 61 posted by Ross Fisher in the final round of this same championship back in 2017.
Having started on the 10th, Langasque reached the turn in three-under before charging home in just 28 blows to finish one ahead of compatriot Frederic Lacroix, who had two eagles in a 62 at Kingsbarns, and another flying Frenchman, Antoine Rozner, who posted a 63 over the Old Course. Allez les Bleus indeed.
“I didn't realise that I had (equalled) the course record here and I think it's something I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Langasque, who was a winner of the Amateur Championship on Scottish soil at Carnoustie back in 2016.
He was set to return to Carnoustie today for his second round and with the weather poised for a boisterous switch, he was well aware of the fearsome test that will be posed over the formidable Angus links. “I will have to remain very focused,” he said, which is another way of saying he’ll have to gird his loins and cling on for dear life.
Langasque gave himself plenty to build on yesterday with a wonderfully assembled round that started with a bogey on the 11th – his second – but kicked into life with the first of his brace of eagles at the very next hole. He covered his final eight holes in eight-under to sprint over the finishing line and upstage a host of bigger names.
One of them was Rory McIlroy, although the Northern Irishman was quietly content with a four-under start at Carnoustie which, traditionally, is the toughest of the triumvirate. The 33-year-old, who started on the back nine, had eased to the turn in four-under but was left counting the cost of a couple of wayward whacks on his inward half which saw him leak shots at the third and ninth.
“I started really well,” McIlroy said. “I played the back nine very well, then sort of stalled a little bit. Overall, you are not going to get Carnoustie in easier conditions so I feel like I left a few shots out there.
“It was a decent day, though. I’ve put a red number on the board and have a few shots to play with.”
On the home front, Ewen Ferguson led the Scottish assault after a sturdy five-under 67 over the Old Course. The Bearsden youngster, a two-time winner on the DP World Tour this season, rolled in a birdie putt of some 17-feet on the last which was a slightly better finish to the one he made on the same green a year ago. On the final day of the 2021 championship, Ferguson four-putted with a late lapse which cost him around £15,000.
“I was actually thinking about that putt,” said Ferguson with a rueful smile. “I gave it a bit of a go this time. I had bogeyed the 17th and really wanted that stroke back. I just saw the line and poured it down there. It’s a nice feeling to make a putt on the last on the Old Course.”
Connor Syme and David Law both had four-under 68s at St Andrews while Robert MacIntyre had his 68 at Kingbarns.
The calm, though, was making way for the storm. Good luck, boys. You might need it.