In the face of swirling winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour, England’s Rob Harris produced a magnificent back nine par to surge through the field at The Dubliner Challenge in Sweden to finish the first day one stroke clear of Frenchman Julien Foret and Sweden’s Fredrik Orest.
Harris has been performing steadily on limited Challenge Tour starts this season, but, after an injection of confidence from his new putter as well as some telling words from his sports psychologist, the 22 year old from Lincoln leaped to the next level to move to the top of the leaderboard on three under par after a wonderfully controlled round of 68 at the Hills Golf Club on the outskirts of Gothenburg.
Starting his first round on the tenth tee, Harris, like every other player in the field, took a few holes to adapt to the constantly changing wind speed and direction. A dropped shot on the 11th hole, Harris’s second of the round, could have knocked the youngster off his stride but he faced the elements head on to go on and produce the round of the day.
A birdie four on the par five 18th took Harris back to level par before he went on to play the more difficult section of the Hills Golf Club, the front nine, like an old master.
Harris made his move with a beautiful little wedge shot to within a foot of cup on the second to move to one under for the day, and he soon doubled that with a tidy birdie four at the par five third hole.
A good par on the difficult fourth kept his momentum going as others around him were being blown off course before Harris produced one of the shots of the day on the par three sixth, a towering five iron that refused to waver in the win, towering over the flag and leaving a tap-in birdie to guarantee the first round lead.
“It was blowing pretty tough out there at points but I played nicely, very solid and I am very pleased with that,” said Harris.
“I holed out very well today – I must have had five or six par-saving putts from around five feet and I managed to make them all. They were real momentum putts and really kept the round going. I’ve actually stuck a new Ping putter in the bag this week to freshen things up a bit and it seems to have done the trick.
“I have played solid all season, but those kind of putts seemed to be costing me more strokes than anything else, so if I can eradicate that then hopefully the results will get even better. I’ve done a lot of work with my psychologist, Stuart Fommes from the Sports Academy, as well recently and I have improved a lot on the course in terms of my routines and my thought processes.”
While Harris’s first round was all about a wonderful balance of control and seizing chances at the right moments, Northern Ireland’s Garth Shaw – who finished the day just two off the lead on one under par – produced a veritable roller coaster ride on the golf course.
The 22 year old, who turned professional two months ago having been ranked ninth in amateur golf’s world ranking, started the day with a birdie on the tenth only to find himself four over par after three holes. Shaw could have been forgiven for losing his cool after a birdie, triple-bogey, double-bogey start at the Hills Golf Club on the outskirts of Gothenburg, but he added an eagle, three birdies and a bogey to post a one under par 70 and join another six players just two shots behind Harris after the first round.