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Stadler leads as McDowell sits six off early pace

KEVIN STADLER said all the right things after carding a flawless 64 to claim the lead after the opening round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National yesterday.

Masters champion Bubba Watson created a poor impression of Americans abroad after playing the tournament in 2011, describing the Eiffel Tower as "that big tower", the Louvre as the "building starting with an L", the Arc de Triomphe as "this arch I drove round in a circle" and the Versailles Palace as "the castle we're staying next to" during his brief trip.

But Stadler staged something of a charm offensive after carding seven birdies and no bogeys to lead by one from Germany's Marcel Siem, with Scotland's Stephen Gallacher a shot further back on five under.

Defending champion Ireland's Graeme McDowell was six shots off the lead after a round of 70, while playing partner and US Open champion Martin Kaymer recovered from dropping three shots in his first two holes to card a 72.

It was a mixed opening round for the rest of the Irish - scoring as follows: Peter Lawrie (+1), Gareth Maybin (+2), David Hoey (+2), Pádraig Harrington (+3), Kevin Phelan (+5), Simon Thornton (+6) and David Higgins (+8).

"It's one of my best rounds of the year for sure," said Stadler.

"To not make a bogey out there is something I didn't think was possible when I first played it.

"It's instantly one of my favourite courses ever, I thought it was spectacular from hole one to the end," added Stadler.

Ryder Cup hopeful Gallacher was left to rue a poor finish despite carding an opening 66, the Scot looking set to challenge the course record of 62 when he covered his first 14 holes in seven under par and then hit a superb approach to five feet on the sixth.

However, he missed that birdie opportunity and then dropped shots on the seventh and ninth after missing the green with his approach each time.