Jon Rahm made a flying start to his bid for a third Spanish Open title on Thursday as a seven-under-par 64 in the opening round left the home favourite just one stroke behind the leaders.
The former world No 1, who won the tournament in 2018 and 2019, is hoping to become the first three-time champion at the event since Seve Ballesteros 27 years ago.
“It would be incredible. He is obviously the reference in Spain. He made golf where it is in this country,” said Rahm, currently ranked sixth in the world.
“He changed golf worldwide but here especially. So any time you get your chance to put your name on a list that only Seve is on [in the European Tour era], it’s really incredible …
“I don’t want to think about it too much but it would be a dream come true, it would be a true honour.”
Rahm flew out of the blocks as he made the turn in five under after starting on the 10th tee.
Some late fireworks saw him finish the first day just behind Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Dutchman Darius van Driel and China’s Wu Ashun.
The 27-year-old Rahm’s highlights included holing a 33-foot eagle putt on the par-five 14th hole and a pitch from a tricky downhill lie on the 8th, his penultimate hole, which crashed into the flag and dropped in for birdie.
Aphibarnrat, a former top-30 player now ranked 324th, rolled in five straight birdies from the 13th to climb to the top of the leaderboard.
“I am really pleased with the start, it’s been a while since I played great golf,” said the 33-year-old.
South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis is on six under (T7) after a first-round 65 that included nine birdies and three bogies.
© Agence France-Presse