Northern Irishman Jonathan Caldwell established a one shot lead in the first round of The Princess after carding a flawless seven under par 64 at Båstad Golf Club in southern Sweden.
Caldwell had seven birdies to establish a slender lead over Swede Oscar Floren, while his fellow Ulsterman and room-mate Gareth Shaw is two shots behind after a five under par 66.
A group of six players are another shot back at four under – Englishman Oliver Whiteley, Spaniard Carlos Del Moral, American Christopher Baker and Swedes Alexander Bjork, Felix Fihn and Peter Gustafsson.
Caldwell, 26, who had four birdies on the front nine and three on the back, said: “I’m feeling very good and played nicely. Seven birdies and no bogeys is always pleasing. I hit it reasonably close and holed some good putts. I holed one from about 40 feet on the ninth but the rest were mostly around ten feet away and solid putts.
“I’ve been playing pretty well the last two or three weeks and had a good finish in the Moroccan Golf Classic, where I finished seventh after a very good third round. I’ve just got to keep the big numbers off the card, which has sometimes been a struggle this year.”
Floren felt the benefits of playing in his home country and is delighted to be in early contention for his first Challenge Tour win.
“It was a great start,” he said. “It was really solid golf. I’ve had my coaches here the last couple of days which was good as I’ve been a bit frustrated with my game recently, so it was good to put a few things right and turn it around.
“I’m from a town about two hours north of here and it’s really nice to be playing in Sweden. My coaches haven’t seen me play very much in the last few years so it’s great to be able to have them here and get their feedback.”
Shaw was delighted with his five under par 66 and said the atmosphere in his and Caldwell’s hotel room this evening would be upbeat.
“I didn’t putt that well, which is surprising for a score of 66,” he said. “I birdied the eighth, my penultimate hole, which was nice. I gave myself a lot of chances and it’s a great way to start – I’m very happy. Jonathan and I are sharing a room this week and after his 64 there’ll be some good positive vibes tonight.
“My game’s coming on nicely and I’m starting to see some much better shots in practice which is key for me and gives me a lot of confidence.
“I’ve been working hard with my coach at home and it’s just a question of staying patient. It’s only halfway through the year and I’m a long way down the Challenge Tour Rankings so it’d be nice to finally get up there in contention.”
Del Moral arrived in Sweden hours before he was due to tee off, but started with three consecutive birdies, and only a double bogey at the last prevented him from being further up the leaderboard.
He said: “I arrived at 1am this morning and had an early start at 8.20am so it was a tough start but I began with three straight birdies – it didn’t feel very good but somehow it happened. I had a lot of ups and downs in the round today with many bogeys so hopefully I can have some more pars.
“I didn’t know the golf course before today so it’s turned out great as a practice round. It’s promising for the next three rounds. I’m a little bit disappointed about not concentrating well enough on the 18th, but it’s all good.”
Frenchman Fabien Marty had a hole in one at the par three sixth, holing with a nine iron from 150 metres.
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