• Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Round One

English trio take charge at Dunhill Links

ESPN staff
September 26, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Co-leader Oliver Wilson is looking to regain his European Tour card © Getty Images
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Oliver Wilson, Tom Lewis and Richard McEvoy are part of a five-strong group who will head into day two of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with a share of the lead.

The first three rounds of the £3.2 million event are held over three courses at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, where the English trio are joined by Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka and Chile's Mark Tullo at 8-under.

Wilson qualified for the 2008 Ryder Cup side after a run of good results ahead of the Valhalla event, but has since lost his European Tour card since - falling from a career-high world No. 45 to his current position of 489 as a result - and has had to rely on sponsor's invites.

But he has had a poor season as yet, missing the cut in all six events he has played on the European Tour, though his opening 64 at Kingsbarns was a reminder of what the 33-year-old is capable of.

"I'm playing a lot better," Wilson, who alongside recent FedEx Cup winner Henrik Stenson recovered from 4-down to beat Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim in the foursomes at Valhalla, said.

"For the first time in probably a year I have some control over my shots and am able to hit the shots and trust it under pressure as well. I'm driving the ball far better, which is essentially the thing that had disappeared. I wasn't able to get it in play, wasn't able to get it on fairways and, in any wind, I was really in trouble.

"It was nice of [tournament hosts Alfred] Dunhill and [Rupert] Johann to give me an invite to this event, because it's going to be a great test."

Lewis, the leading amateur at the 2011 Open Championship, also carded his 64 at Kingsbarns. After turning professional, he won the 2012 Portugal Masters but is currently 155th in the Race to Dubai, in which he needs to finish in the top 110 to retain his card for next year.

"Winning so early helped me compete at the top level but at the same time probably hurt me as well by expecting too much, too early," Lewis, 22, said.

"I'm learning and it's a shame that I haven't performed better over the last couple of years, but when I'm back at the top, I'll be ready to be back at the top whereas before I probably wasn't.

"You just want to give up half the time. It's a good job but any job is tough, especially at the level here the guys are playing at. Obviously I've been through tough times and been upset a lot of the time, and it's actually been probably the toughest two years of my life."

McEvoy is also struggling to keep his card, currently sitting 171st in the Race to Dubai. He shot his 64 over the famous Old Course at St Andrews.

"Three years ago I finished eighth in this event to keep my card," he said. "But at the moment I'm so far down in the back of my mind I need to win, really. But if I go out, I need to go out with a bang, so I've got to give it a shot, and that's what I did today."

Tullo and Kaleka, who were playing together, also began this year's tournament at St Andrews.

Three more Englishmen - Mark Foster, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Baldwin - are tied for sixth at 7-under alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Scot George Murray, while Brits Eddie Pepperell, David Horsey, Simon Dyson and Chris Wood are part of a 10-strong crowd at 6-under.

2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel began with a 4-under 68 at Carnoustie, while last year's Open champion Ernie Els and Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer posted one more shot over the same course.

South African Branden Grace opened his title defence with a 2-under par 70, also at Carnoustie.

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship leaderboard

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