A storming course record equalling performance ensured Sweden’s Leif Westerberg gained the early lead at the European Challenge Tour’s richest event of the season – the €330,000 Kazakhstan Open.
Westerberg could not have timed his superb eight under par 64 much better. Currently 23rd on the Rankings and in need of one more big cheque to win a place on The European Tour via the top 20 on the end of season Rankings, Westerberg flew out of the blocks in his quest to secure the €52,800 first prize at the Nurtau Golf Club.
Starting on the tenth tee, the 32 year old Swede picked up an immediate birdie before going on a devastating run of five birdies in a row between the 16th and second holes .
He finished off his low scoring day with an outrageous 80 foot eagle putt on the par five fourth hole to move to eight under par and equal the course record of Welshman Gareth Wright.
“I played well all day and putted solid so it was just a really good round of golf,” said Westerberg.
“This is my first time in Kazakhstan and I really like the golf course – it’s a great test with firm greens and the rough is very long. You can’t be too aggressive but if you play well you get the reward. If you don’t hit the ball well you will struggle.
“Obviously we know it’s a big week for us. I am right there in 23rd on the Rankings so need a big week but you can’t really focus on the money or what you need to get your card. You have to try and treat it as a normal week but it can be tough because I know that if I win here then I am on Tour. “
Westerberg’s blistering start gave him a three stroke lead over England’s Paul Dwyer and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, with a further eight players tied on four under par, among them England’s Ross McGowan, one of six players in the field eyeing the magical third victory that would earn instant promotion to The European Tour.
Whiteford and Dwyer, respectively 83rd and 91st on the current Rankings, can propel themselves into the top ten with victory in Kazakhstan and put themselves in a fantastic position to win a place on The European Tour by finishing inside the end of season top 20.
“I’m delighted with that,” said Whiteford. “This is a big week for us with the amount of prize money on offer and I need a fair bit of money to try and get my card, so it was important to get off to a good start and I managed to do that today.”
Felipe Aguilar, the Challenge Tour Number One, and another of the six men looking for a third victory of the season, opened with a two under par 70 at the Nurtau Golf Club.