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Ben Brady/INPHO Niall Kearney [file photo].
# Round 1
Caldwell and Kearney in the mix as Rahm makes strong start in bid for third Spanish Open
Jonathan Caldwell and Niall Kearney are both six shots off the lead after the opening round.

JON RAHM MADE a flying start to his bid for a third Spanish Open title as a seven-under-par 64 in the opening round left the home favourite just one stroke behind the leaders.

Jonathan Caldwell and Niall Kearney are also in action, and both carded a two-under 69 to leave them six off the lead while Gavin Moynihan and Paul Dunne are two shots further back after rounds of 71.

Cormac Sharvin carded a three-over 74 while David Carey finished on five-over 76.

Rahm, who won the tournament in 2018 and 2019, is hoping to become the first three-time champion at the event since Seve Ballesteros 27 years ago.

“It would be incredible. He is obviously the reference in Spain. He made golf where it is in this country,” said Rahm, currently ranked sixth in the world.

“He changed golf worldwide but here especially. So any time you get your chance to put your name on a list that only Seve is on (in the European Tour era), it’s really incredible…

“I don’t want to think about it too much but it would be a dream come true, it would be a true honour.”

Rahm flew out of the blocks as he made the turn in five-under after starting on the 10th tee.

Some late fireworks saw him finish the first day just behind Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Dutchman Darius van Driel and China’s Wu Ashun.

The 27-year-old Rahm’s highlights included holing a 33-foot eagle putt on the par-five 14th hole and a pitch from a tricky downhill lie on the eighth, his penultimate hole, which crashed into the flag and dropped in for birdie.

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Aphibarnrat, a former top-30 player now ranked 324th, rolled in five straight birdies from the 13th to climb to the top of the leaderboard.

“I am really pleased with the start, it’s been a while since I played great golf,” said the 33-year-old.

– © AFP 2022

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