England’s Sam Osborne put together a brilliant back nine of 30 to post an opening score of eight under par 64 and assume a two stroke lead at the Kazakhstan Open – the first professional golf event to be played in the country’s history and one of the most prestigious events on the 2005 Challenge Tour Schedule which was officially opened by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazabrayev.
Osborne, in his rookie year as a professional, started his round on the tenth tee and turned in two under par before embarking on a birdie blitz over the Nurtau Golf Club’s front nine that ensured the 24 year old a two stroke lead from Ireland’s Stephen Browne, Steven Jeppesen of Sweden and Andres Romero of Argentina.
Birdies at the tenth, 12th and 13th set Osborne on his way and he moved into top gear as he reached the front nine, planting a near perfect nine iron within 12 inches of the hole on the first to set up a tap in birdie.
As he moved onto the second, 6ft 4in Osborne demonstrated his overwhelming power by reducing the par five to a huge drive followed by an eight iron to 15 feet which he duly holed. He followed that eagle three with another two 15 foot putts on the third and fourth before picking up another two strokes on the seventh and eighth.
A bogey on the ninth could not take the shine off what was the outstanding performance of the first round that left Osborne in pole position to pick up the €40,000 first prize on Sunday afternoon.
He will meet strong resistance from a high class field though, with Browne, Jeppesen and Romero just two off the lead and Julien Clément of Switzerland, Johan Edfors of Sweden, Argentina’s Sebastian Fernandez, Ireland’s David Higgins, Scotsman David Orr and Spain’s Carl Suneson all putting in solid opening rounds of five under par to trail the Englishman by three.
“I played well all day,” said Osborne, who celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday. “My long game was good on the front and back nine and I holed a few 15 foot putts which really got my score going. I think if you drive the ball well then can shoot a low number but if you are in the rough you are going to struggle because the rough is quite tricky so it’s really important to keep the ball on the fairway.
“The course here in Kazakhstan is very good. The greens are a good speed and I think it’s a great course because you have to drive the ball well here whereas some of the course that we play you can hit it anywhere and get away with it but not here.
“I didn’t have that many expectations when I found out I was coming here to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect from the golf course. We heard a rumour that the course was not that good but that has turned out to be just a rumour and we have been made to feel very welcome.”