By Norman Dabell
MADRID (Reuters) - Luke Donald hailed the skills of Seve Ballesteros's eldest son Javier after the world number one launched the defense of his Madrid Masters title with a 68 on Thursday.
Donald's four-under-par effort left him four shots behind leader Ross McGowan of Britain but it was Wednesday's pro-am performance by playing partner Javier, 21, that he waxed lyrical about.
"I was very impressed with Javier, he is so like his late father," Donald told Reuters. "I guess the genes have been passed down.
"It felt like I was playing with Seve. Not that I ever had the pleasure but I've watched Seve so much on TV. He had the same mannerisms.
"He told me he had two or three years left studying law and then he might try and turn pro," added the 33-year-old Briton.
Two uncharacteristic blemishes cost Donald dear in Thursday's first round.
An error of judgment caused him to bogey his ninth hole, the 18th, when his three-iron approach fell short and his ball finished in the lake.
Donald also missed a three-foot birdie attempt at the eighth.
"The 18th played a little longer than I thought and my three-iron didn't quite get there," he said. "The greens, which are very undulating, can be very difficult if you don't hit them in the right spots."
McGowan made light of the slopes on the putting surfaces as he blazed his way to a 10-birdie 64.
That gave the Englishman a one-stroke lead over Australian Brett Rumford, Lorenzo Gagli of Italy and tournament promoter Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
IN THE DOLDRUMS
McGowan won this event in 2009 but has been in the doldrums for two years and the 29-year-old was delighted to find the Spanish capital a happy hunting ground again.
"I think I like Madrid," he said. "That was a much better round than I've been putting together recently."
Fernandez-Castano, who has sought treatment in the U.S. to get rid of a back problem that has plagued him this season, said he had more things to worry about than injury.
"Being the promoter makes it so hectic," the Spaniard said. "I forgot my golf balls, my locker key, my head was everywhere but where it should be so this is a fantastic result."
Tournament invitee John Daly's day turned sour when the twice major champion found water three times on 18 to run up a quadruple-bogey nine and slump to a 76.
The American known as 'Wild Thing' walked off the course during his Austrian Open second round two weeks ago.
Dutchman Floris De Vries (73) was handed an unusual penalty when he was fined 500 pounds ($769) because his caddie did not rake a bunker on the 16th.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)