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Barham blasts to early lead in Austrian Open

  • Story Highlights
  • Benn Barham equals best round of his European Tour career to lead in Vienna
  • Englishman cards eight-under-par 63 in opening round of the Austrian Open
  • The world No. 570 leads by one shot from Scott Drummond and Brett Rumford
  • Soren Hansen, highest-ranked player in field, tied for 13th after his opening 67
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(CNN) -- Benn Barham equaled the best round of his European Tour career to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Austrian Open in Vienna on Thursday.

Barham blasts to early lead in Austrian Open

The 33-year-old Englishman, ranked 570th in the world and struggling to retain his tour card for next year, fired an eight-under-par 63.

He closed with birdies at his last two holes to claim the lead ahead of Scotland's Scott Drummond and Australian Brett Rumford.

He birdied four of his first six holes, and bounced back from a bogey at the par-four 10th to eagle the par-four 13th and pick up another shot at 15.

"It was nice conditions and the course is fantastic," Barham, whose best finish is third at the Russian Open last year, told the tour's official Web site.

"I have played here three or four times before and always put this on my schedule. The course and practice facilities are first-class."

His eagle was a 150-yard approach that pitched just past the flag and spun back in.

"I couldn't quite see it drop, but the people around the green were shouting and waving so I knew it had gone in," he said. "This time of year you have no choice -- either knuckle down and play well to keep your card or go somewhere else, which I am not thinking about.

"I've been playing well the last four or five weeks, so this is not a freak round."

Drummond, ranked 717th in the world, birdied four consecutive holes from the third, and then made amends for a bogey at 14 by picking up shots at his next three greens to finish on 64.

He needs a good finish soon as his five-year exemption for winning the PGA Championship at Wentworth expires in November.

Rumford, who has three European Tour titles to his name, had a flawless seven-birdie round.

Englishmen Phillip Archer and Mark Foster were another shot back on 65, along with Australian Richard Green and France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet.

Green had a tumultuous back nine in which he double-bogeyed the 11th hole, birdied 12-14 and dropped another shot inbetween eagles at the par-five 15th and 18th.

The highest-ranked player in the field, world No. 42 Soren Hansen, was in a big group tied for 13th on 67.

The Dane, who is 16th on the Order of Merit this season, bogeyed the 17th hole but bounced back with a birdie at 18.

He was one shot ahead of Scotland's 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie, who was tied in another big group including Frenchmen Thomas Levet and Jean Van de Velde, the runner-up at Carnoustie in 1999.

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who accepted a late invitation, had four birdies and three bogeys in his 70 to be tied for 52nd.

All About Benn BarhamScott DrummondBrett RumfordJose Maria OlazabalSoren HansenPGA European Tour ResultsGolf

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