sport

Flying finish puts Arendell top

Connor Arendell, who is ranked 1,511th in the world and yet to make a halfway cut on the European Tour, leads at the Hassan Trophy in Morocco.

American Arendell finished eighth at the qualifying school in November to earn his card for this season, but missed the cut in his first four events of 2014 and failed to break 70.

However, the 23-year-old from Florida made a mockery of such statistics on Thursday, carding a seven-under-par 65 to lead by one shot from Scotland's Marc Warren and English duo Tommy Fleetwood and Andy Sullivan.

"It's a great start," said Arendell, who birdied four of his last five holes. "There was quite a bit of wind so I wasn't expecting too low of a round out there but I kept putting the ball in play and I was making some putts.

"I gave both tours a try, q-school wise, but I just think this is the best thing for me now that the PGA has done away with getting your card (through qualifying). I am not a huge fan of that so I wanted to give this a try and it's worked out so far.

"I think it's huge, coming over here getting that experience, the travelling; week to week the courses vary quite a bit compared to the US every week so you are working a lot on getting used to the greens and the courses and it's tough, but i think over time it will make it that much easier when I'm in the US."

Arendell is following in the footsteps of the likes of Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka in swapping America for Europe, adding: "I spoke to Peter a little online asking what to expect when I came over.

"I played against them a little in college and junior golf so we know each other a little bit. They have done great so far and it's a great thing what they're doing and I think you will see more Americans (on the European Tour)."

Warren is 142nd on the European Tour's Race to Dubai after a slow start to the year which has seen him miss the cut in three of his five events and break 70 just twice.

However, the 32-year-old from Glasgow rediscovered some of the form which took him to a career-best 33rd on the money list last season to card an opening 66.

After starting from the 10th and covering the back nine in 32, Warren picked up shots at the third, fifth and seventh to move into the outright lead on seven under.

His only bogey of the day came on the eighth, where his tee shot found an awkward lie in the back of a greenside bunker, and that dropped him into a share of the lead with Fleetwood and Sullivan.

Fleetwood had set the pace for much of the morning after covering the back nine in just 30 shots thanks to four birdies and an eagle on the 17th, but the Johnnie Walker Championship winner was frustrated to then card seven straight pars before three-putting the eighth.

A birdie on the last swiftly made amends for that mistake and meant Fleetwood joined Sullivan on six under, the world number 315 finishing his round in style with four straight birdies.