Hansen Sets Pace in French Open

Anders Hansen carded a 5-under 66 to take the lead after 18 holes of the French Open. The European Tour event began Thursday at Le Golf National in Paris.

The 42-year-old Dane carded seven birdies and two bogeys for a one-stroke lead over France's Romain Wattel and two over Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, England's Matthew Nixon, Argentina's Estanislao Goya, Germany's Martin Kaymer, France's Victor Dubuisson, South African Richard Sterne, Chile's Felipe Aguilar and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti.

Hansen has played in just 10 events this season and will undergo a hand operation on Tuesday that will keep him out for several more. The three-time European Tour winner, whose last title came in the 2009 Joburg Open, hopes his fine play continues before the surgery.

"I'm looking forward to getting that out of the way and being ready for the end of the season," Hansen told reporters. "I've been struggling for a long time with it and it just came to a point where the cortisone didn't really kick in anymore, and now I need an operation otherwise I just can't keep playing."

Defending champion Marcel Siem got off to a terrible start at the course that will host the 2018 Ryder Cup. The German carded a 7-over 78 that included two quadruple-bogeys.

Several players high in the world rankings are playing in the French Open. Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell - ranked ninth - had a 69, while No. 5 Matt Kuchar a 70. No. 8 Luke Donald carded a 71.

McDowel said prior to the start of the tournament that hhe enjoys the venue. "This is a good golf course," said the 2010 U.S. Open champion. "I didn't get a chance to get on the course yesterday. There was a pro am yesterday afternoon, but always enjoy this golf course. I think this is my eighth time being here at the French Open, and you know, I've always enjoyed this course. It's got a mixture kind of it has that links look to it. It's always firm and fast, a lot of fescue around, a lot of heavy rough around.

"You mix that in with some risk/reward stuff, especially the last four or five holes with a lot of water around. It asks you to hit a lot of quality shots. It's just a really good golf course. Premium in accuracy off the tee to try and set up opportunities to come into these greens and make some birdies. But very enjoyable golf course. They do a fantastic job here. Look after us really well; Versailles, beautiful town, it's great food, and what else can you ask for? Fine wines, hopefully."

Other marks included a 75 by American Peter Uihlein.

For complete scoring details, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013052/leaderboard/index.html.