Linn Grant edged ahead of Maja Stark in their personal duel for the Race to Costa Del Sol title at the Andalusia Costa Del Sol Open De Espana.
The two Swedes arrived at Alferini Golf with seven wins between them on the Ladies European Tour this season - Grant four and Stark three - and with the Race to Costa Del Sol an effective match play battle.
The season-ending prize will go to whoever finishes in front, and it is likely to go down to the wire judged on Thursday’s opening round.
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Grant began the day with a slender lead over Stark, and her round of 67 was enough to secure a one-stroke advantage over her friend and rival after 18 holes.
Grant made a slow start and was two-over after three holes, which came as a surprise as she had spent the past couple of weeks on the Costa Del Sol in preparation for the event.
Stark, in contrast, arrived earlier in the week - jetting in from the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida - and admitted she was feeling extremely jaded.
If Stark was tired, it did not show early in the round as she made three birdies on the front nine to get to three-under.
First Round Leaderboard
- 1. Cara Gainer, seven-under
- 2. Carlota Ciganda, six-under
- T3. Morgane Metreaux, five-under
- T3. Anais Meyssonnier, five-under
- T3. Leona Maguire, five-under
- T3. Linn Grant, five-under
- T7. Jessica Karlsson, four-under
- T7. Hannah Burke, four-under
- T7. Cassandra Alexander, four-under
- T7. Nuria Iturrioz, four-under
- T7. Alice Hewson, four-under
- T7. Anne van Dam, four-under
- T7. Azahara Munoz, four-under
- T7. Lee-Anne Pace, four-under
- T7. Maja Stark, four-under
The one flaw in Stark’s game at this fledgling stage of her career is her putting, and it reared its head on the inward nine.
On the 10th and 11th, she wildly three-putted - on each occasion blasting the birdie putt way past the hole and missing the return effort. Those mistakes came as a surprise, as she looked in complete control of her game.
When Grant made a birdie on the 11th, she had overturned the deficit to Stark and got in front but the latter steadied the ship with a birdie on 13.
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They both birdied the par-five 17th, but Grant secured a slender bit of daylight when making a birdied on the final hole - as Stark had to settle for a par after blasting her effort for a two past the hole. She made the return putt for par on this occasion.
Away from the battle for the Race to Costa Del Sol title, Cara Gainer made an excellent start to take the lead of the tournament after 18 holes. The English player made nine birdies and two bogeys in a round of 66 to get to seven-under.
Leona Maguire made an eagle and four birdies in a round of 68 to get within two shots of the lead at five-under.
Carlota Ciganda was the other player in the group with Grant and Stark, and the defending champion birdied her final six holes to get to six-under.
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