European Challenge Tour Member Sebastian Fernandez of Argentina set the early pace at the TIM Peru Open with a sizzling six under par 66 to lead by one stroke from tournament favourite, Carlos Franco of Paraguay.
Franco is joined on five under by Argentina’s Julio Zapata, with another Argentine Challenge Tour Member, Daniel Vancsik, in fourth spot on four under par. Englishman Paul Dwyer and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey are leading the European charge on three under par.
Fernandez, who finished ninth on the 2003 Challenge Tour Rankings and played on The 2004 European Tour as a result, birdied the third hole and then chipped in for eagle from the greenside bunker at the par five eighth to turn in three under 33.
He came home in the same number, picking up a stroke at the 11th before scoring birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie between the 14th and 17th to post the leading first round score at Los Inkas Golf Club.
“When I missed greens I chipped close, and when I had chances for birdie I took them,” Fernandez said. “I had 27 putts so that says everything about my round – there are some days when this game is easier than others.”
Franco, who finished 29th in the 2004 US PGA Tour money list with just under $2 million dollars from 29 event was delighted with his opening round that included seven birdies and two bogeys.
“This course is easy and difficult at the same time,” said Franco after signing for 67. “Miss a fairway or get on the wrong side of a flag and you can be make bogey very easily. The greens are difficult to read, a lot of grain but they are also fair. In terms of being hard, making it difficult to stop the ball quickly, I'd say they are very similar to those we play on the PGA Tour and that’s an advantage as far as I'm concerned. Today with no wind was a day for anyone to make a fast start.”
Zapata, who missed out on the chance to compete at the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School by a single shot, is hoping to capitalise on his own good form in order to win a place on the 2005 Challenge Tour.
“I've been playing well but not getting the job done,” he said. “I threw away my chance of final Tour School over the last three holes. Now I've got to play myself onto a tour in 2005. What it boils down, because my game is strong right now, is if I hole-out well or not. Today was a much better day on the greens – I had 28 putts and holed a lot of six to eight footers.”
Vancsik got off to a shaky start when he missed from three feet at his first hole. He said: “It was an uncomfortable start, then I played really well but had three really unlucky bogeys, balanced by an eagle. I feel very comfortable, playing without any stress, but it would have been nice to have made a few more putts.”