Friday, 19 March 2010
A five-foot birdie on the final green earned Joakim Rask a four-under-par 67 and saw the Swede leapfrog long-time leader Michael Archer when the Challenge Tour Grand Final got underway in Bordeaux.

England’s Archer seemed to have struck a blow for the thirtysomethings with a 68 to set the target over the Chateaux course at Golf du Medoc.

It was good enough to earn the 36 year old a one-stroke lead for most of the day until the big-hitting Rask, playing in the last group, came up on the rails.

The 29 year old from Stockholm had not played the course before, but he signed for an eagle and three birdies to steal the spotlight from Archer.

This closing tournament of the Challenge Tour season is restricted to the leading 45 ranked players and will decide who earns the 15 cards on offer to next season's European Tour.

"I need to win this week to stand any chance of a card," said Rask, who occupies 35th spot on the Order of Merit. "But this is a good start because I haven't been playing well for five or six weeks.

"In the last tournament in Italy I made so many mistakes. I shot 28 birdies and an eagle but finished only 11 under. This is the first week I have hit the ball better and when you shoot some birdies you know your game is on the way back."

Archer can afford to finish in the top four this week and still stand a chance of his card but he felt he wasn't firing on all cylinders today. "I putted and scored well but I wasn't on top of my game," he admitted. "I can't seem to find the right angle of attack and club selection was difficult in the blustery conditions.

"But it's not a bad start and I'm using a new Titleist driver this week. I have been finishing 50 yards behind these young guys with my regular club and now I'm just five yards behind."

On a sunny day that was accompanied by a chilly wind, 34 of the 44 players in the field bettered par and 14 of them shot 69 to share third place.

Among them is Mark Foster, the current leader of the rankings, who came home in 33. He needs to stay ahead of his nearest rival, Jamie Donaldson in the race for the No.1 spot. He did just that as the Welshman suffered a double-bogey six at the 13th to post a 71.

Also on 69 are Frenchman Marc Pendaries and England’s Philip Golding, who both opened with three successive birdies, and Germany’s Wolfgang Huget, who might have shared the lead with Rask but suffered two bogeys in the closing three holes.

Two players currently just outside the top 15, Stuart Little in 16th spot and 19th placed Benn Barham, are also on 69, but Andrew Sherborne in 17th place returned 75.

But while Rask took the day’s honours, spare a thought for another Swede, Magnus Persson. The former European Tour player suffered a recurrence of an old back injury on the practice range and was forced to withdraw 10 minutes before his tee-off time.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1BLAND, RichardENG18-18
2GOLDING, PhilipENG18-13
T3CLARK, GaryENG18-12
T3MARSHALL, AndrewENG18-12
T5ROESTOFF, AshleyRSA18-10
T5DE VOOGHT, DidierBEL18-10
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