A sizzling round of 64, and some friendly advice from his compatriot Ian Poulter, helped Englishman Gary Boyd to the top of the leaderboard at the midway stage of the Tusker Kenya Open on the European Challenge Tour.
As part of his winter training schedule Boyd spent a month in America, where he practised alongside flamboyant Ryder Cup star Poulter, who is represented by the same management company.
And the fruits of his labour were evident on another sun-soaked day at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi, Kenya, as the youngster from Oxfordshire roared into a five-shot lead courtesy of eight birdies and a solitary bogey.
The highlights of Boyd’s round were birdies at the eighth and 14th holes, the two longest par fours on the course, and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th which took him to 11 under par.
That saw him establish a commanding lead over his nearest challengers, European Tour champion Carl Suneson of Spain and South African David Hewan, who shot rounds of 67 and 66 respectively to finish on six under par.
Boyd, who finished runner-up twice in his maiden Challenge Tour campaign, has now targeted the perfect start to his second season, as he bids to secure a place in the top ten of the Rankings which would guarantee him a place in The Race to Dubai next year.
He said: “I got off to a great start with a birdie at the second hole, and then just went on from there. I hit it close today, and managed to hole my fair share of putts. The greens are fairly firm but they’ve held up pretty well so far, which is a credit to the greenkeepers. So there are plenty of birdie opportunities out there, and if I can keep playing well and taking them over the next two days, I’m going to be there or thereabouts come Sunday night. A lot depends on the weather, because if the wind gets up it could make life tricky. But if I can get to 16 or 17 under, then I’ll have a great chance.
“I came here to win and I’ve put myself in a great position, so I’ll be a little disappointed if I don’t now. I played well to finish 23rd in Madeira on The European Tour, so I’m in decent form and my confidence is pretty high. I also worked on a few things with my coach in America, and it was great to have Poults there to give me some advice. He’s played on the Challenge Tour before so he knows the ropes, and he also gave me some tips and hints, which was really useful. When someone like that speaks, you tend to listen.
“Hopefully I’ll be seeing a bit more of him next year, and if I manage to win three times on the Challenge Tour it’ll be even sooner than that! I’ve targeted the top ten in the Rankings, so anything above that is a bonus. I was pleased with how I played in the first half of last season, but in the second half I struggled a bit for consistency. Maybe a bit of tiredness crept in, and I also lost a bit of confidence with my swing. But I worked hard to put that right over the winter, and hopefully now I’m a better player. It’s early days, but so far, so good.”
Overnight leader Søren Juul is in a trio of players one shot behind Suneson and Hewan on five under par. Joining Juul in a tie for fourth on five under par were England’s Andrew Butterfield and Germany’s Max Kramer.
Argentina’s Alan Wagner, currently leading the Rankings, and former Tusker Kenya Open champion Lee James of England were a shot further back on four under par, alongside South African Trevor Fisher Jnr.