COLOGNE, Germany - Former winner Soren Hansen of Denmark fired a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to lead
the Mercedes Masters by a stroke.
Hansen, the 2007 champion at Gut Larchenhof, picked up four
shots in his last six holes with an eagle and two birdies, to
edge in front of British youngster Chris Wood.
"I want my trophy back," Hansen told reporters after his
first round, which he called "silly-easy".
Last year's Ryder Cup debutant is on course to pick up
320,000 Cup points and also to vault into Europe's money-list
(Race to Dubai) top 15, who will share a $7.5 million bonus pool
at the end of the season.
"I've been in the top 15 for the last two years and it's
even more important this year to be there," said Hansen,
currently 19th on the money-list.
"And two years ago, winning here was the platform for
qualifying for the Ryder Cup, so I hope it's going to be the
Wood, 21, took another step toward his maiden European Tour
title. He came under the golfing spotlight by winning the silver
medal for top amateur in the 2008 British Open, finishing fifth
behind winner Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale, England.
Since his July major adventure, Wood has been treading water on
the European Tour. But on Thursday he found his British Open form
with a run of four birdies in five holes from the 11th.
South African James Kingston, Australian Scott Strange and
Britain's Ross Fisher and David Drysdale, lie third after 67s.
Briton Lee Westwood, trying to make up ground from his fourth
place on the European money-list, is five shots adrift of
Bernhard Langer's hopes of being the tour's oldest winner revived as the 52-year-old German two-time Masters winner
picked up four strokes in the last six holes for a 71.