Five consecutive birdies on the back nine shot Wil Besseling of the Netherlands to the top of the leaderboard on eight under par on day one of the inaugural DHL Wroclaw Open on the European Challenge Tour.
Standing on the 13th tee at Toya Golf and Country Club in Wroclaw, Poland, Besseling trailed the early clubhouse leader Jean-Nicolas Billot of France by three shots. But some scintillating golf saw the Dutchman better Billot’s round of 64 by two strokes, and so set a new course record.
Challenge Tour rookie Besseling, who already has one victory to his name at the II Club Colombia Masters, said: “That first win gave me a lot of confidence, and set me up for the rest of the season. It made me re-think my priorities and realise that it’s possible to get onto The European Tour. I know Joost Luiten very well. What he did last year was great, and if I can do the same I will be very pleased.”
In the morning session Billot had countered the cold weather with some hot scoring, collecting seven birdies and a solitary bogey.
The man from Lyon, who was joined on six under par later in the day by Sweden’s Kasper Jorgensen, is seeking to better his only top 20 finish so far this season, at the AGF-Allianz Côtes d’Armor Bretagne in his native France.
He said: “My results this season have been OK. I’ve made every cut so far, but not come close to winning. My best finish so far was tied 19th in Brittany. If I can finish higher here, I will be a very happy man.
“I didn’t make many mistakes today, and my putting was good. To make seven birdies and only one bogey was very pleasing.
“The course was very nice. The greens weren’t very fast, but that’s ok – the ball held its line. It’s my first time here in Poland, and I’m impressed.”
Billot was less impressed with the weather, however, saying: “After practice I will relax – but inside, because it’s too cold to go outside!”
Another player having to acclimatise to the unseasonably cold weather is Paraguay’s Marco Ruiz, who heads a trio of players on four under par.
Ruiz, who already has one Challenge Tour victory and a top 15 finish at the Open de España to his name this season, said: “It’s probably the coldest conditions I’ve ever played in, but I have to get used to this weather if I want to play in Europe more often. I want to get back onto The European Tour, and the best way to do that is to play well and win on the Challenge Tour.
“I’m very happy, because I played very well. I was five under par after 11 holes and feeling really good, but my putting let me down over the last few holes. But I hit the ball very solid, even though it was very cold out there. It’s maybe the coldest conditions I’ve ever played in.
“But I’m very surprised how good the golf course is. It’s brand new – only three years old. But already it’s in good condition, and very competitive. In five years’ time, this course is going to be in excellent condition. It’s the sort of course which suits my game. It’s similar to a links course, which I like.”
Ruiz is currently in a tied for sixth place with a cluster of players which includes England’s Andrew Willey, who has fully recovered from the bout of food poisoning which ended his participation in Brittany. Neither snails nor frog’s legs were to blame – instead, a humble pasta dish was the culprit.
He explained: “A few of us ate some Spaghetti Bolognese one night, and I was confined to my bed. But I feel right as rain now, and I was pleased with the way I played today and last week in Italy. It’s my first year competing on the Challenge Tour, so I’m just feeling my way into it. But so far, so good.”
Earlier in the day, Garcia opened and closed with birdies en route to a bogey-free 65, which was matched by Tadini, who dropped just one shot in his morning round.
Meanwhile England’s Gary Boyd, aged just 21, credited Manchester United’s Champions League victory for his round of 66. He said: “I was still pumping with adrenaline this morning – I think that’s what spurred me on over the closing holes.”
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