Sweden’s Johan Axgren and Scotland’s Andrew McArthur emerged from the first round of the European Challenge Tour’s Tusker Kenya Open as the men to catch at the head of the field with both players carding opening scores of six under par 64 at the magnificent Karen Golf Club on the outskirts of Nairobi to establish a two shot advantage over the chasing pack.
Axgren, already a winner on the 2006 Challenge Tour Schedule following his play-off victory at the Kai Fieberg Costa Rica Open 2006, and McArthur, who took third place behind Kevin Stadler of the USA and Argentina’s Angel Cabrera at the Abierto Visa de la Republica presented by Bridgestone, have been two of the form players of 2006, and they showed exactly why with excellent opening rounds in Kenya.
The Scot was the first of the two leaders to reach the clubhouse, doing so with a minimum of fuss – seven birdies and just a single dropped shot – as he leapt ahead of England’s James Heath, Cedric Menut of France, Argentina’s Gustavo Rojas and the Kenyan Ajay Shah, all of whom were in the clubhouse on four under par.
“I’m just taking it easy to be honest,” said McArthur, who is enjoying his rookie year as a professional “I’m not doing anything special, but I just manage to produce three or four good shots out there today and that has made the difference in my round.
“I’m pleased with the start, and I just have that feeling that you get when you have a good round and are playing well, the feeling that it was quite an easy day out there.
“This is my fifth full event of the season and I am really enjoying it. That result in Argentina came out of nowhere in the sense that I just crept up the leaderboard in the closing stages, but I think it has given a wee bit of extra belief in myself and that’s has been good for my confidence.”
Axgren never looked like threatening the lead on his front nine because every putt he struck seemed to have an aversion from dropping into the hole, leaving the 32 year old Swede on what became a frustrating score of one under par at the turn given the number of birdie chances that had evaded him.
He soon made amends for those missed chances though, picking up five birdies on the way home to equal McArthur’s leading score and joining the Scot at the top of the leaderboard.
Currently second on the Rankings with €35,693, another victory on the 2006 Schedule would push Axgren close to repeating his Challenge Tour success of 2004, when he won his place on The European Tour by finishing the season in sixth position.
“I played really good today – I couldn’t make a putt on the first nine and then they started to drop on the back nine and I found myself in a tie for the lead which is great,” said Axgren.
“I’m just trying to keep my good form going and try to secure my card for The European Tour as quickly as I can through the Rankings. I have been playing well since the end of last season and I know there is a long way to go this year but if I could win again then I would be close to securing a card.”