Valencia, Spain – Felipe Aguilar, Gary Stal and Morten Orum Madsen all carded 4-under 68s on Thursday to share the lead following the first round of the Open de Espana.
World No. 31 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is among eight players tied for fourth place at Parador de El Saler at 3-under. He is joined by David Higgins, Craig Lee, Joakim Lagergren, Robert-Jan Derksen, Matthew Southgate, Joel Sjoholm and Daniel Brooks.
"I think 3-under is a great start," said Fernandez-Castano. "I played some steady golf and got a couple of lucky breaks when I needed them and I holed some nice putts."
Defending Champion Francesco Molinari tripped to a 3-over 75 in his first round to sit in a tie for 97th place.
Stal was the lone member of the leaders to record a bogey-free round and started his day with five straight pars before rolling in a birdie at the sixth.
He followed that with three more pars to hit the turn at 1-under, and then opened his inward nine with back-to-back birdies at the 10th and 11th.
He picked up his final shot with another birdie at the 15th and closed with three straight pars.
Aguilar traded birdies at the first and fifth with bogeys at the second and eighth to sit at even par before starting a streak of four birdies in a seven- hole span with consecutive birdies at the ninth and 10th.
He also parred his final three holes to stay at 4-under.
"The conditions are absolutely fantastic," said Aguilar. "It's a very difficult golf course if you miss the fairways off the tee; as long as you keep it on the fairway off the tee you get pretty good chances. The greens are rolling really nicely."
Madsen started on the back nine and quickly picked up a shot at the 11th, but followed that with a bogey at the 12th.
He would not record another bogey for the rest of his round, however, and poured in birdies at the 13th, 15th and 16th to move to 3-under.
After parring the next six holes, Madsen birdied the fifth to grab a share of the lead. He then parred out.
NOTES: This is the fourth time that Parador de El Saler is hosting the tournament, but the first since 2001 ... Aguilar has missed the cut in his last three starts, but he finished inside the top 10 in his four events prior to the streak ... Madsen and Stal are both graduates of the Challenge Tour.