Paris, France – Christian Nilsson fired a 6-under 65 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead after the first round of the Open de France.
Nilsson, who won the 2009 Saint-Omer Open, carded his best round of the year by three strokes on the Albatross Course at Le Golf National. His best finish this season came two weeks ago when he shared 38th at the BMW International Open.
"It's been a struggle for me so far this year. My long game was pretty bad, but it's improved and this is good for my confidence," Nilsson stated. "I've been very patient, I think. I've been practicing on things I believe in and just waiting for something to happen -- finally looks like it did."
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero carded a 5-under 66 and was joined in second place by Thongchai Jaidee and Gary Boyd.
Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano stands alongside David Lynn and Federico Colombo in fifth place at minus-4.
Henrik Stenson and Jeev Milkha Singh are among seven players tied for eighth at 3-under 68.
Nilsson had a birdie and four pars in his first five holes before catching fire. He dropped in back-to-back birdie efforts from the sixth, then made it three in a row with a birdie on the eighth.
The Swede stumbled to a bogey on the par-5 ninth to slip back to 3-under. Around the turn, Nilsson recovered that stroke with a birdie on the 10th.
After three pars in a row, Nilsson birdied the par-5 14th and made it two in a row with a birdie at 15. That moved Nilsson into the lead at 6-under. He parred the final three holes to end there.
Manassero did all of his scoring in bunches. He started on No. 10 and posted his first birdie on the 13th. Manassero made it two in a row as he birdied the 14th as well.
The two-time European Tour winner parred his next four holes. On the front side, Manassero birdied three of the first four holes to get within one of the lead. He parred the last five to end one back.
"It was a very good round. Everything was going the right direction, the way I wanted," said Manassero. "You have to give yourself the most opportunities for birdies that you can, and I didn't feel like I putted that well, but I was solid and I made some of those chances."
Jaidee also started on No. 10. He had a pair of birdies and a lone bogey on his opening nine. Around the turn, Jaidee carded two birdies and an eagle to grab a piece of second.
Boyd flew out of the gate with three birdies in the first four holes. After he parred four in a row, Boyd birdied the ninth and 10th to move to minus-5. He parred his final eight holes to end there.
World No. 3 Lee Westwood dropped four strokes in a four-hole span from the 12th. He got one stroke back with a birdie on the 16th. On the front nine, he birdied four of five holes to get to 1-under. At the ninth, his last, Westwood blasted out of the water left of the fairway with his second shot. He went on to par the hole and finish at 1-under 70.
Reigning British Open champion Darren Clarke had five birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey in a round of 70. Clarke and Westwood are among 21 players tied for 21st.
NOTES: Defending champion Thomas Levet bogeyed his final two holes en route to a 1-over 72 that left him tied for 62nd...The Albatross Course will host the Ryder Cup in 2018.