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Hansen grinds to 1-stroke lead in France

Anders Hansen birdied his final hole on Thursday and grabbed a 1-stroke lead after the opening round of the Open de France.

Hansen, who has been battling a nagging hand injury which will require surgery, fired a 5-under-par 66 under tough conditions at Le Golf National.

"I played actually really solid from tee to green -- I think I only missed two or three greens," said the three-time European Tour winner. "I putted quite well, so just sort of all came together. At some stage it seemed a bit easy, but this course gets your attention and next thing you know, you're making bogeys."

Local favorite Romain Wattel is alone in second place after a 4-under 67, while 2009 winner Martin Kaymer is tied for third at 3-under 68. Thomas Bjorn, Stephen Gallacher, Richard Sterne, Felipe Aguilar, Victor Dubuisson, Fabrizio Zanotti, Tano Goya and Matthew Nixon are also minus-3.

"You are in front of the French crowds, so you want to be good, you want to play great golf and so there is pressure on me," said the 22-year-old Wattel. "I'm trying to play my best and just focus on the shot I have to play -- that's the only thing I can do."

Graeme McDowell and 11 others carded 2-under 69s, while American Matt Kuchar, who has two PGA Tour wins this season, shot 1-under 70.

Hansen went out off the 10th tee in the morning and began with back-to-back birdies. He added gains at Nos. 14 and 16 en route to an outward 31.

Around the turn, the 42-year-old Dane bogeyed the first, but he bounced back with consecutive birdies from the fifth, draining an 8-footer there and a 30- footer at the sixth to reach 5-under.

A bogey at the eighth briefly knocked Hansen from the top spot, but he rebounded with a birdie at the last to hit the clubhouse with the lead.

"I'm having my operation on Tuesday, so I'm looking forward to get that out of the way and hopefully be ready for the end of the season," Hansen said of his ailing hand. "It's not far away, so I'm looking forward to get that done.

"I've had it for years and years and years -- they are going in three different places and they are going to remove a cyst I have here and clean this up and hopefully there's a 50/50 chance it's going to be okay. The other thing is to take the whole bone out and cut it a bit, but that's a big operation and I would be out for six months, so we are hoping to do that and it's going to be good enough. It's just wear and tear from hitting too many golf balls."

NOTES: Hansen's last European Tour win came at the 2009 Joburg Open ... The site of this week's tournament, Le Golf National, will be the host for the 2018 Ryder Cup ... Defending champion Marcel Siem shot 7-over 78 ... Luke Donald, who is looking for his first win of the season, shot even-par 71.