Keith finds his groove in round 1 in Wales

Keith Horne carded a superb seven-under-par 64 on the opening day of the Saab Wales Open on Thursday to take the first round lead in the first European Tour event to be played at Celtic Manor since Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph.

Horne, who was beaten by a rampant Charl Schwartzel in the 2010 Joburg Open for his best performance on the European Tour, went on to win his fourth career title on the Sunshine Tour in the Investec Royal Swazi Open later last year.

But his 2011 season in Europe has been a little frustrating after a solid but unspectacular start in South Africa: He’s missed the cut in seven events, and his best performance after his South African sojourn was 16th at the Volvo China Open.

“I did some work with Hennie Otto on the range and I’ve been doing some work with my coach Hendrik Buhrmann,” he said, “but it’s just a couple of key thoughts that I changed on to the golf course, and they clicked and I just stuck to them for the whole round.

“I was a little bit too nervous to stray from them, and I think that helped a lot out there, because I couldn’t get ahead of myself, the way I’ve been playing lately. So I just stuck to my key thoughts all the way around and got pretty comfortable.”

He’s found life pretty frustrating while he battles to get the game back he knows he possesses. “It was getting worse right up until last week and I’ve just played very, very badly,” he said.

But it came together really well on the day, and, but for a couple of putts – some of them long – that narrowly missed, he might have scored even better.

“You sort of get into it,” he said. “The more birdies you make, you start to feel invincible. I had some really good putts, and the undulations are really not that bad, as long as you stay on the right side of the flags.”

He held a one-stroke lead over Peter Hanson, with Steve Webster, Alvaro Velasco and Paul Broadhurst on five-under in a share of third.

Otto and Jaco van Zyl opened with one-over 72s, while James Kingston carded a 73. Behind them, George Coetzee was on four-over 75, seemingly unable to convert the momentum he seemed to be building last week in Pretoria onto a European course.

Shaun Norris was struggling on six-over 77.

Horne has some way still to go, and some good players – the likes of Graeme McDowell, Gregory Bourdy and Darren Clarke – behind him.

“We’ll see if it keeps going for the next couple of days,” Horne said.

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