Finland’s Toni Karjalainen stormed into the clubhouse lead with a blistering opening 63 in the MAN NÖ Open at GC Adamstal in Ramsau, Austria.
The 29 year old went out in level par 36 before racing home in a staggering 27, which included an eagle two when he holed his nine iron approach to the 14th, to set the pace at seven under par before play was suspended for the day after heavy rain flooded the Adamstal course.
Karjalainen has won two Challenge Tour titles, having captured the 2005 Thomas Björn Open presented by Mulidata and the 2006 Telenet Trophy, and graduated to The European Tour at the end of the 2005 season but has struggled to rekindle that form in the current campaign with just one top ten early in the year and he currently lies in 113th place on the Rankings.
But his 63 – the lowest Challenge Tour round of his career – could put him back on the right track as he leads Switzerland’s Andre Bossert by two strokes with the English trio of Jamie Little, Ally Mellor and Neil Walker and Swede Klas Eriksson a shot further back after rounds of four under par 66.
“It was a little wet but somehow I managed to get round and I didn’t feel I had to fight for it at all,” said Karjalainen. “Apart from the eagle on the 14th, and a good 25 foot birdie putt on the 13th, all the birdies were from close range.”
Of his season so far, Karjalainen said: “The numbers don’t tell the whole story as my scoring average is pretty good but I am just not making enough birdies but today I made a whole bunch. Hopefully this will be the story for the rest of the season. There is plenty of golf to go and the goal is to get into the top 20 to get a card for The European Tour and it only takes a couple of good weeks. Every week someone seems to go crazy and hopefully this is my week.”
Austrian Roland Steiner thrilled the fans with a three under par 67 in his bid to secure a home victory. Steiner finished the day in a strong position despite a double bogey on the 13th spoiling the card. His score was also matched by, among others, compatriot Christoph Pfau in the group sharing seventh place.
The weather caused disruptions through the day, initially with a fog delay and subsequently torrential rain and when play was finally suspended for day, 63 players were left to complete their opening rounds. They will resume at 7.15am with the start of the second round delayed by one hour and 15 minutes and now scheduled to get underway at 7.45 am.
Among those unable to finish was Austria’s favourite golfing son, Markus Brier, whose success in his home country includes two Challenge Tour victories and one European Tour triumph. Indeed, his victory in the 2006 BA-CA Golf Open, presented by Telekom Austria, made history as the first Austrian success on The European Tour. Brier was lying at four under par with three holes to play.