Three Englishmen and a Swiss sit on top of a packed leaderboard after the opening round of the Ypsilon Golf Challenge by Alex Cejka on the European Challenge Tour.
Late in the day at a sunkissed Ypsilon Golf Resort in Liberec, Czech Republic, England’s Matthew King showed signs of a welcome return to form with a round of 65, to go level on six under par with his compatriots Marcus Higley and Matthew Cort, and Switzerland’s Julien Clément.
By his own admission King has struggled with his game in a transitional season, but some technical changes he has been working on have given the football-mad 32 year old reasons to be cheerful.
He said: “I felt in control of what I was doing, which made for a nice change because it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that. My form hasn’t been great – the whole season’s been pretty disappointing, to be honest. I tried to make some changes to my game, and it’s only really been in the last month or so that I’ve started to feel the benefits.
“I’ve been hoping for a round like this to give me some confidence, and hopefully now I can kick on from here and finish the season well. Realistically, it’s probably come a bit too late in the day – I’ll really have to go some to salvage this season! So I’ve got to look at the bigger picture and plan ahead for next season.”
Of the morning starters, Higley had set the early pace after posting six birdies in a flawless round of 65. He has slipped five places to eighth in the Rankings over the past fortnight, but the man from Yeovil has every chance of regaining the initiative after firing his lowest opening round of the season.
Higley said: “I’m still well placed in the Rankings at the minute, but I’m more concerned with achieving the goals I’ve set for myself this season. One of them is obviously to win – I’ve come very close twice, but if I can get over the line this week it would virtually guarantee me my card for The European Tour next season. I’ve made a decent start here, and I’m feeling reasonably good at the moment.”
Clemént was feeling even better after closing with a birdie three and an albatross two – the first of his career – to come home in 32. The Swiss, who has been a model of consistency with just two missed cuts so far this season, is confident of further improvement on day two after recruiting a caddy.
He said: “I arrived a little late so didn’t even have time to pick up a trolley, which meant I had to carry my bag. My girlfriend arrives later, so hopefully she will carry my bag for me, because there’s a lot of hills out there. But I was pretty pleased with my round, and to finish with an albatross was just unbelievable.”
Cort’s flawless round of 65 featured three consecutive birdies on the back nine, but he was quick to sound a note of caution after leading on the first day of the SWALEC Wales Challenge, only to fall away subsequently.