Swedes Martin Erlandsson and Henrik Stenson and Mark Pilkington from Wales share the lead on six-under-par 66 after the first round of the Costa Blanca Challenge at Bonalba near Alicante. They are a shot clear of another Swede, Eric Carlberg, and England’s Simon Khan.
On a day of perfect conditions, calm in the morning with a light breeze after lunch, Erlandsson was the first to post his 66 which contained an eagle and four birdies. The 26 year old said: “I hit my irons close all the time and took my chances when I got them.”
Minutes later, Pilkington joined him at the top of the leaderboard. The 22-year-old from North Wales who started at the 10th, also carded an eagle and added five birdies and one bogey.
“I played well,” he said, “but I didn’t hole any long putts. The best part of my round was my driving. I played well in Switzerland last week but couldn’t hole a putt.”
Stenson, an afternoon starter, was a little more erratic, carding an eagle and six birdies but also finding two bogeys in his 66. “When I holed from 45 feet for eagle at the fifth I said ‘bingo’,” he said. “I putted well, almost too well. I didn’t hit the ball well but I holed a lot of putts.”
As the sun shone, 47 players broke par and Khan, the East Region PGA champion, and Carlberg will be pleased with their contributions. On a crowded leaderboard, four players share fourth place on 68, another Swede, Johan Rystrom, Italy’s Michele Reale, runner-up in the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open last week, Tony Carolan, from Australia, and Shaun Webster, a former England Amateur champion.
Trevor Immelman, from South Africa, currently top of the Challenge Tour rankings, carded a 74, leaving him with a task if he is to avoid missing his second successive cut.