Sweden’s Klas Eriksson took full advantage of his first class links golf education to take a two stroke lead at the inaugural Scottish Challenge. The 34 year old posted an excellent six under par 65 at the magnificent Murcar Links Golf Club on Scotland’s north east coast, and afterwards revealed that three month-long terms at one of links golf’s toughest schools, Carnoustie, had taught him all he needs to know to contend at this week’s €200,000 Challenge Tour event.
It was during his time as an amateur in the Swedish National Team that Eriksson visited The Open Championship venue, and the lessons he learned at Carnoustie were very much in evidence as he put together seven birdies, ten pars and just a single dropped shot to establish a two shot advantage over five players on four under par.
Eriksson was the first to admit that his excellent first round effort was played in the best conditions of the day. The Swede began his round amidst some fairly benign morning conditions at Murcar, but by the time holed out on 18, the wind was picking up and the golf course began to show its teeth.
“I played really well and it was great fun out there today,” said Eriksson. “I just relaxed and took it easy because the conditions were fantastic and I felt really good out there.
“I love playing links golf and the thing that always amazed me about it is that it looks easy, but it is far from that when the wind gets up. But I have always loved it, ever since I have been coming to Scotland with the Swedish National Team.
“We used to come over to Carnoustie to practice for a month – I think I did it three years in a row – and I just fell in love with the links game. You don’t get much better than Carnoustie in terms of a links education because that is one tough golf course, but it’s also my favourite because I have spent so much time there.”
As is always the case in links golf, the changing conditions had a significant bearing on the first round scoring, with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello, Denmark’s Anders Schmidt Hansen, Welshman Stuart Manley and Scotland’s own Murray Urquhart all finishing their opening rounds of four under par 67, to leave them in a tie for second place, before the wind really picked up.
Urquhart, the leading Scot in the field, was delighted to post a good opening round on a course he has always held a particular affection for.
He said: “I think a little bit of local knowledge certainly helped today, but I think it’s more down to the fact that we are playing links golf. That’s the main advantage for the Scottish boys this week and makes us feel a bit more comfortable. Most of us were brought up playing links courses so it’s only natural that we should feel comfortable.
“I think the fact the tournament is here at Murcar, which is a links course, gives me an advantage as well. I certainly believe I can win here this week and I think that belief kind of stems from all of those factors I have mentioned.”
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