Englishman McGowan claimed his first European Tour win in the Spanish capital 12 years ago at the Madrid Masters but had to wait 11 years to seal a second at last season’s Italian Open.
A third round 60 in his victory at Centro Nacional de Golf represents his lowest ever European Tour round and his opening effort this week is his second lowest as he moved to ten under at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
Home favourite Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez was his nearest challenger but all eyes were on Rahm, who was at eight under as he seeks a third consecutive victory at his home open.
The U.S. Open Champion took huge crowds with him after this event was cancelled last season due to the coronavirus pandemic but it was McGowan who stole the headlines as he carded eight birdies and an eagle.
Dutchman Wil Besseling, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Scot David Drysdale were at seven under, a shot clear of another Scot in Grant Forrest, Kiwi Ryan Fox, Swede Joakim Lagergren and Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist.
Ross McGowan: “First out this morning, it was a bit chilly on the range and the first four or five holes the ball wasn’t really travelling but got away with a really good birdie on three and the par five on four as well, and after that it started warming up and I started finding my range with the irons, so holed a couple of putts and hit it close so went well.
“I think a few things have clicked. Some work I have done with the coach and some of the covid restrictions somewhat easing off, I find mentally I am in a better place, so I think it is a combination of the two.
“I always seems to putt pretty well here and last time I played quite well here too, so looking forward to tomorrow.”
Jon Rahm: “It was a really good start. Played eight flawless holes and then a bit of a stumble from 18 through three, I didn’t hit my best shots and was able to save a couple pars to minimise the damage. After that I was able to play some good golf coming down the stretch, giving myself some chances, but obviously we saw what Ross McGowan shot this morning – ten under is a heck of a round out here.
“I played good enough to maybe do it, but you have to play flawless and make the putts, hit the right shots and on a golf course like this that is a little bit more old school, it is a little narrower and targets are smaller, so it is easier to end up out of position. Overall, very happy with my round.
“I have a better understanding, but it doesn’t compare to Centro Nacional de Golf, it was my home course for two years. Nobody in that field in 2018 had played it more than me, I knew it inside and out. Last time I played here was the first time on the golf course, but it didn’t take long to learn. You have to hit it really well off the tee, if I drive like I did early on and at the end when I was hitting it long and straight, wedges into every hole, then it is a doable score.”
“There are quite a few fans out here and they are rather enthusiastic, they have been cooped up for too long and they have the chance to come out and watch me play, which I haven’t played on Spanish soil since this event two years ago, so they are golf hungry, and they were great. From the beginning, every single shot and every single putt I made they were really supportive, and every time I missed a shot, they were extremely supportive as well, so that always helps.”
Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez: “My start is fantastic, it’s in my mind. I remember so many years ago playing the Open de España and it was a great moment, plus Jon Rahm is near the front and I am very good friends with him, we played a lot together, and it is fantastic. So many fans, my friends and family are here. My dream!
“There were so many friends and family watching, this is my home, it is ten minutes from here, but it has been an incredible week so far.”
Round One Scores
61 R MCGOWAN (ENG),
62 S GARCIA RODRIGUEZ (ESP),
63 J RAHM (ESP),
64 W BESSELING (NED), D DRYSDALE (SCO), J DONALDSON (WAL),
65 J LAGERGREN (SWE), G FORREST (SCO), R FOX (NZL), R SCIOT-SIEGRIST (FRA),
66 A COCKERILL (CAN), D HORSEY (ENG), R LANGASQUE (FRA), L BJERREGAARD (DEN), A WU (CHN), J SMITH (ENG), S TARRIO (ESP), J GUERRIER (FRA), S JAMIESON (SCO), M WARREN (SCO),
67 V DUBUISSON (FRA), D VAN DRIEL (NED), R PARATORE (ITA), J CAMPILLO (ESP), A ARNAUS (ESP), R CABRERA BELLO (ESP), M LEE (AUS), J SENIOR (ENG), K SAMOOJA (FIN), M LORENZO-VERA (FRA), N BERTASIO (ITA), E MOLINARI (ITA), J JANEWATTANANOND (THA), A SULLIVAN (ENG), C SYME (SCO), F LAPORTA (ITA), P LARRAZ?BAL (ESP), A ROZNER (FRA), S SHARMA (IND),
68 J MURPHY (IRL), A OTAEGUI (ESP), G FDEZ-CASTA?O (ESP), H LI (CHN), D PUIG (AM) (ESP), N LEMKE (SWE), M PAVON (FRA), M JORDAN (ENG), J HANSEN (DEN), D COUPLAND (ENG), S BROWN (ENG), J GONNET (FRA),
69 R RAMSAY (SCO), D WHITNELL (ENG), R JACQUELIN (FRA), G COETZEE (RSA), R BLAND (ENG), A MERONK (POL), R FISHER (ENG), T PULKKANEN (FIN), S KJELDSEN (DEN), M SCHMID (GER), T AIKEN (RSA), D GAVINS (ENG), M KORHONEN (FIN), L DONALD (ENG), M ARMITAGE (ENG), A CA?IZARES (ESP), F ZANOTTI (PAR),
70 R ROUSSEL (FRA), R SANTOS (POR), S V?LIM?KI (FIN), J STALTER (FRA), C HILL (SCO), L GAGLI (ITA), N ELVIRA (ESP), D LAW (SCO), G GREEN (MAS), J CATLIN (USA), A JOHNSTON (ENG), E PEPPERELL (ENG), G PORTEOUS (ENG), D FICHARDT (RSA), S CROCKER (USA), C PAISLEY (ENG), B WIESBERGER (AUT), T OLESEN (DEN), S KIM (USA),
71 J WALTERS (RSA), M KAWAMURA (JPN), S DEL VAL (ESP), A CHESTERS (ENG), G STORM (ENG), W NIENABER (RSA), A QUIROS (ESP), V PEREZ (FRA), J MOSCATEL (AM) (ESP), M KIEFFER (GER), D VAN TONDER (RSA), J SCRIVENER (AUS), J PASTOR (ESP), H PORTEOUS (RSA),
72 J WINTHER (DEN), Z LOMBARD (RSA), O FISHER (ENG), O FARR (WAL), A LEVY (FRA), S SODERBERG (SWE), J MORRISON (ENG), R KARLBERG (SWE),
73 C SANCHEZ MOLINA (ESP), N H?JGAARD (DEN), K BROBERG (SWE), J CALDWELL (NIR), B HEBERT (FRA), O WILSON (ENG), J SURI (USA), S HEND (AUS),
74 G MIGLIOZZI (ITA), M KINHULT (SWE), M ANTCLIFF (AUS), E DE LA RIVA (ESP), R MCEVOY (ENG), G BRIXI (CZE), D HOWELL (ENG),
75 M SOUTHGATE (ENG), J HARDING (RSA), C SHARVIN (NIR), P ANGLES (ESP), G BHULLAR (IND),
77 A BUENDIA (ESP), A PAVAN (ITA),