Denmark’s Søren Juul believes some tips from the man who coaches his compatriot and namesake Søren Hansen have raised his game to new levels.
The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, and a five under par round of 66 at the Tusker Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour seemed to add weight to Juul’s theory, as he finished the opening day one stroke ahead of Switzerland’s Martin Rominger and the English trio of Gary Boyd, Andrew Butterfield and Andrew Marshall.
Aside from a runner-up finish at the Telenet Trophy, Juul’s 2008 campaign was marked chiefly by inconsistency. But a tied 11th finish at the season-opening Club Colombia Masters presentado por Samsung last month seemed to suggest a corner had been turned.
Boosted by that return to form Juul made an explosive start to his round at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi, Kenya, to reach the turn at four under par, before adding a further two birdies on his back nine.
The Dane would have finished the day with a two-stroke lead, were it not for a three putt for bogey at his penultimate hole.
He said: “For the past 18 months I’ve been working with James Petts, who coaches Søren Hansen, and it seems to be paying off. I made a great start in Colombia last month before falling away at the weekend, but that was due mainly to my putting. I was still striking the ball nicely even if my scores didn’t really show that, so I took a lot of confidence from that. If I keep learning from James hopefully I can keep improving, and if I manage to achieve half of what Søren’s done in the game I’ll be a very happy man!”
An impressive round of 67 saw Marshall take the first steps towards getting back to where he feels he belongs, namely The European Tour.
Marshall – who graduated to The European Tour in 2001 after finishing fourth in the Challenge Tour Rankings but lost his playing privileges two years ago – started the day badly with a bogey at the tenth, his first hole.
But he got his round back on track by picking up a shot on his ninth hole, and a further four birdies after the turn saw him finish the day on four under par.
Marshall said: “I’ve got to be very pleased with a 67, particularly after the disastrous start I made. I over-clubbed with my approach shot which meant the ball went way over the back of the green, and I couldn’t get up and down from there. So a bogey six – when I should’ve been looking to make birdie – probably wasn’t the ideal start to my round! But I got going with a good birdie on the 18th, and after the turn I chipped in on the fifth and made some decent putts, particularly a 30-footer on the last. I’ve been working a lot on my putting alignment over the winter, so it was pleasing to see some of that work pay off.
“I’ve been playing and practising a fair bit in Asia since the start of the year, mainly because the weather’s a bit better over there! But if I manage to finish in the top ten here or even win, then I’d obviously have to think about concentrating more on the Challenge Tour and hopefully getting back onto The European Tour, which is where I feel I belong. I’ve made a decent start, but there’s a lot of golf to be played here before I can start thinking about my plans for the rest of the season.”
In contrast to Marshall, Boyd and Butterfield both began their rounds of 67 with birdies. But neither man could match the start of Rominger, who picked up four shots in his opening five holes before closing with 13 consecutive pars.
He said: “After the start I made, I was probably a little disappointed to finish with a 67! But it’s always pleasing to keep the bogeys off the card, so I can’t really complain. It’s my first Challenge Tour appearance for three years, because I’ve been living in Singapore and playing mainly in Asia. My best finish was 15th at the 2006 Credit Suisse Challenge, so if I can beat that this week I’ll be very happy – and so will my girlfriend Simona, who’s caddying for me this week. She’s very experienced, so she knows when to stay quiet and when to give advice. She plays off scratch herself, so I’ve obviously taught her well!”