Rafael Echenique crafted a brilliant course record of eight under par 65 to take a three stroke lead after the first round of the Telia Challenge Waxholm. The Argentine, who moved into the top 20 on the Challenge Tour Rankings last week, is hitting the right form at the perfect time of the season with just seven events on the 2006 Schedule remaining.
The 25 year old registered two top ten finishes in the events preceding the Telia Challenge Waxholm, a tie for fourth at the Rolex Trophy followed by a seventh place finish at last week’s ECCO Tour Championship.
Those two results have lifted Echenique to 19th spot on the Rankings, and he is hoping to edge closer to guaranteeing a top 20 finish to the season with another fine performance in Sweden this week before heading home to Argentina to prepare for the season’s finale.
His first round at the Waxholm Golf Club on the outskirts of Stockholm could not have been much better as he set a new course record in a fine 65, to lead the Swedish duo of Klas Eriksson and Wilhelm Shauman, Denmark’s Mads Vibe-Hastrup and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford by three shots.
“My round really got with birdie on the 16th today,” said Echenique. “That was my seventh hole of the round and after I made birdie there I made a lot putts. I did not have any bogeys on the card which was important, and my putting was excellent today – I must have had only 25 or 26 putt at the most.
“I have been playing for a few weeks now and it is a good time of the season for me to play better because I am close to a European Tour card but I need to do a bit more to make sure of it.
“I am going back to Argentina for two weeks after Sunday. I am going to see my coach and go over a few things to prepare for the last four events of the season because I have a good opportunity.”
As well as manoeuvring him to the top of the leaderboard, Echenique’s course record put him in line to win the SEK 30,000 (Swedish Krona) prize on offer to any player who beat previous course record of 66. He must now hope that no-one can better his excellent first round effort in order to win the full prize.