ATZENBRUGG, Austria (AP) — South African newcomer George Coetzee shot a 7-under 65 to take the early first-round lead at the Austrian Open on Thursday.
Coetzee took advantage of an early tee time and started from the 10th tee with four straight birdies before a strong wind began to blow over Diamond County Club.
He dropped a shot when he found the water in front of the ninth green, but rallied with three more birdies in the second half of his round.
As scoring became increasingly more difficult during the morning, Coetzee found himself with a three-shot lead over Austria's Javi Colomo, who qualified by winning a local order of merit, and Sweden's Jarmo Sandelin. They both shot 68s.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of two European Ryder Cup players in the field, managed a 72.
The Spaniard, who also started on the 10th tee, had three birdies over his first four holes, but had a double-bogey on No. 17 and dropped two more shots on his final two holes.
After a recent spell of wet weather in Austria, preferred lies were in operation, but Coetzee believed he overcame a very tough test.
"Its probably one of the better courses that I have played this year or in my life," he said.
"There are a lot of tough holes and lots of water to avoid but there are a lot of birdie holes as well, which probably evens itself out."
With earnings of only $144,000 from 20 events during his first full season in Europe, Coetzee has his work cut out if he hopes to avoid Q-school in late November.
He thinks his 65 proves he has the potential to retain his tour playing card.
"I have had a few low rounds this year and slowly I am getting confident," he said. "But my goal has to be putting together a good week rather than just playing well for a day."