Welshman Stuart Manley roared into the lead at the Scottish Challenge presented by Bank of Scotland Corporate with a brilliant eight under par 64 to lead by one from Norway’s Jan Are Larsen and Spain’s Alvaro Velasco.
With sun shining over the magnificent Scottish Borders, it was a perfect day for low scoring at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel and Country Club, where 78 of the 156 strong field went under par, with Manley the best of them all.
The 28 year old dropped just one shot in an otherwise splendid first round, notching nine birdies as he continues to reconstruct the putting technique that made him one of Britain’s best amateur players before he turned professional in 2003.
As a result of his improvement on the greens, Manley has made a notable surge up the Challenge Tour Rankings in recent weeks, with four top ten finishes in the last five events helping him move to 12th position.
“I just played nicely all day really,” said Manley. “I have been playing nicely recently, well, scoring better than anything, but I have had a few results that have been encouraging.
“Most of that is down to my putting. I changed to an old putter because the alignment on the one I was using was way out. I was aiming miles right and it was no wonder that I was missing putts.
“Going back to the old putter has been great and given me a lot of confidence because I used to be a great putter in my amateur days and it feels that I am getting back to the level I was at then.”
Amongst the hungry pack chasing Manley, Larsen and Velasco are a group of home players determined to flourish in their native Scotland.
Andrew McArthur, the leading Scot on the Challenge Tour Rankings in 25th place, was joined by Eric Ramsay and Peter Whiteford on six under par 66, while Jamie McLeary, David Patrick and Richie Ramsay are just a further stroke back
With a prize fund of €200,000, the Scottish Challenge presented by Bank of Scotland Corporate is the third richest full Challenge Tour event on the 2007 Schedule, a fact that is reflected in the strength of the field this week, with every one of the top ten players on the Challenge Tour Rankings in attendance.
Larsen, among others, is fully aware of the significance of that €200,000 prize fund.
He said: “This tournament is like a semi-major for us because of the prize money. Obviously you can’t control which tournaments that you do well in, but it’s a nice bonus for me that I have made such a good start – hopefully it can continue until Sunday.”
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