Germany’s Florian Fritsch and Carlos Rodiles of Spain produced a pair of outstanding seven under par 65s to take the lead at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Markus Brier Foundation.
Fritsch, a former amateur partner and still a close friend of Germany’s most recent golfing sensation Martin Kaymer, produced a marvellous opening round over the Golfclub Klagenfurt-Seltenheim to set the clubhouse mark early in the day, with Rodiles continuing his career renaissance on the Challenge Tour by matching the young German’s score.
Fritsch and Rodiles hold a one-stroke lead over Marco Crespi of Italy, Frenchman Julien Guerrier and South Africa’s Louis Moolman, with the Argentine duo of Clodomiro Carranza and Sebastian L Saavedra, Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, Sweden’s Oscar Florian and Tino Schuster of Germany staying in touch with the leaders by recording a quintet of five under par 67s.
Markus Brier, the double European Tour Champion who is promoting the €140,000 event through his own Foundation, is well in the hunt on four under, a score that was matched by his playing partner and current Challenge Tour Number One, Gary Boyd of England as well as 18 other players on a packed leaderboard.
Fritsch took great delight in exacting his revenge on the Golfclub Klagenfurt-Seltenheim after the 23 year old German revealed that the course had chewed him up and spat him out while he was a young amateur player ten years ago.
“I am very happy with today,” said Fritsch. “I really grinded it out early in the round today and managed to avoid going over par early in the day. I made two great seven foot par putts on the first two holes and I think that was very important for the rest of the round today. Not only did I save two shots but I then knew that my short game was on and my putting was good so I thought the birdies would come.
“The course is great – the same as it was ten years ago when I played the International Austrian Amateur Championship here! I came here when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was funny when I told my dad we were coming here. I told him and he said: ‘Isn’t that the course where you dumped three balls in the water on the 18th?’ And I said: ‘That’s the one dad, thanks for the reminder!’ But I definitely exorcised the demons today because I managed to birdie the 18th which felt great by the way!”
Fritsch is hoping to emulate the career path of his friend and compatriot Kaymer, who, only three years ago, was in exactly the same position as Fritsch finds himself today: playing the majority of his golf on the Satellite EPD Tour and relying on invitations to make his way on the Challenge Tour.
Kaymer, of course, won his first event on the Challenge Tour to charge through the Rankings and win his place on The European Tour in the space of 11 weeks. Fritsch almost emulated Kaymer by winning his first event, but had to settle for second place after losing in a play-off to Lee James at the ALLIANZ Open Cotes d'Amour Bretagne. That performance, however, has grabbed the attention and the German is hopeful that he can follow Kaymer’s lead to The European Tour.
He said: “I played a lot with Martin when we were Amateurs. We played a lot of foursomes together and went to the World Cup together so we have a nice history. He is on his own right now though – I have only had a second and a top 20 finish on the Challenge Tour whereas he has done a lot more. I suppose my attitude right now is: it’s not how quickly you get there; it’s how long you can stay there once you make it. Martin is doing great and hopefully I can join him in the big events in the future.”
Rodiles, meanwhile, has been there and done it and is now looking for a return to the top level. The Spaniard finished second in last week’s Telenet Trophy and is looking likely to concentrate his efforts on the Challenge Tour as he bids to win back his place on The European Tour.
He said: “I have been playing great on the Challenge Tour this year, but not good on The European Tour when I have been playing there. I don’t know why it is – it might be something to do with how laid back everything is out here on the Challenge Tour. I seem to relax and not try to force anything out here and have been playing well.
“I am trying to take my Challenge Tour mindset to the main Tour but it is tough to do and I am going to have to make a decision soon about what Tour I want to concentrate on. If I keep playing well on the Challenge Tour then I will keep playing here for the rest of the year because if I can finish in the top ten of the Rankings at the end of the year then I will have a great category on The European Tour next year and will be able to play almost every event.
“The course is nice here. There is a good combination of really tough holes, some medium ones and some easy ones. If you can play the tough holes right then you are going to have an opportunity to go quite low.
“The level out here is very good. The last two weeks we played very tough courses and the cuts were level par and one over: that’s shows that you really have to play just to make the cut. And these young guys just hit the ball longer and longer every day. They are unbelievable, the level is very high out here.”