England’s Michael Archer fired a four under par 68 to share top spot with Sweden’s Johan Annerfelt and Michael Jonzon in the Formby Hall Challenge on Merseyside after wielding a ‘new’ putter retrieved from his attic.
The 37 year old Archer had five birdies on his card and put most of his success down to his change of putter. "I haven't been putting well all year," he said. "Then I remembered I'd got this old Ray Cook putter in the loft so I got it down and it worked perfectly.
"I've also been plagued by back trouble but I've been seeing a sports physiotherapist and the trouble in the lower part of the back seems to be going. I had no twinges today so I've started to find my swing again."
Archer made his score in the morning as did Jonzon and Johan Annerfelt. Jonzon, who came home in 31 with five birdies, said: “I’m happy with 68 because it was very tricky out there. I didn’t feel I played well but I putted well. Sometimes you return your best rounds when you don’t feel it.”
Annerfelt was one of a handful of players not to drop a shot as he ran in four birdies in his 68. “The key here is to keep the ball on the fairways so I didn’t hit a lot of woods off the tees,” he said. “I used my two iron and with a lot of run on the fairways I could hit it around 250 yards. It meant longer approach shots but you can get more control off the fairways.”
The trio are a shot clear of seven players on three under including four Britons, including four Britons, Michael Hoey, Scott Stevens, John Wells and Peter Whiteford, and two more Swedes, Peter Malmgren and Raimo Sjoberg.
Yorkshireman Wells was surprised by his 69. "I don't know where that came from," he said. "I've been playing poorly recently and missed the last two cuts on the Europro Tour. But I was given a tip by a friend and it worked today."
Hoey, the Walker Cup star from Belfast, would have finished with a share of the lead but he three-putted the 17th to drop a shot. "I played solid and chipped a lot better," he said. "I've been playing well but not scoring well recently but my course management was much better today."
Whiteford, with a win and a runner-up spot in the past month, made his score on the back nine which he covered in 34 with an eagle and two birdies. "It's a good start and something to build on," he remarked.
Also on 69 is Spain’s Ivo Giner, while eight players posted cards of 70. Among them were Garry Houston from Wales and Frenchman Marc Pendaries, who both got to four under. But the incoming rain proved decisive and they fell back into the pack.