Swedish golfer Stenson in early running but Willett struggles

Swedish golfer Stenson in early running but Willett struggles

Pulheim (Germany) (AFP) - Henrik Stenson made a solid start in his bid for a second BMW International title to sit three shots off the first-round lead in Germany on Thursday.

The 40-year-old Swede is looking to go one better than in the last two editions of this tournament, after following up a 2014 playoff defeat with another runner-up effort last year.

Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin sits atop the leaderboard after a stunning opening-round 65, as he bids for a fifth European Tour victory.

Stenson looked to be in contention for a long-overdue maiden major title last week in the US Open at Oakmont after the first day, but was forced to withdraw during his second round with a calf injury.

But the world number seven bounced back in Pulheim, as he carded five birdies against a single bogey for a four-under-par 68.

"I'm pretty pleased with that,? said Stenson. "The rough is really thick here this year and a lot of emphasis is on hitting fairways and greens, and I think I did that."

Stenson's playing partner and Masters champion Danny Willett fell to a 74 after dropping three strokes in his final two holes.

The Englishman played the front nine in two under par, but had two double bogeys on his way back to the clubhouse and now faces a battle to avoid the cut.

The 42-year-old Jacquelin has struggled to find his best form in recent seasons, but had seven birdies on a fine bogey-free day.

The last of Jacquelin?s four European Tour titles came in 2013, and his eighth-place finish in Sweden earlier this month was his first top-10 for 11 months.

"I'm very pleased of course, as you can imagine," said Jacquelin.

"I played solid pretty much all day long. It was a bit tough at the end but I managed to save some good pars."

Alone in second spot, just a shot behind, is England's Oliver Fisher, and the world number 536 was understandably delighted.

"The course is obviously pretty wet from the weather they have had lately here," he told the European Tour website.

"You've got to hit fairways and hit greens and I've done that today and played well. Anytime you go bogey-free for 18 holes is a good round."

Sergio Garcia, who challenged at the farcical US Open won by Dustin Johnson, continued his fine recent form with a one-under-par 71.