Alessandro Tadini of Italy produced a brilliant first round of seven under par 65 to lead World Number Nine Rory McIlroy and the rest of the field at the Egyptian Open presented by SODIC.
Tadini, like so many of the Challenge Tour players in action at this the penultimate event of their season, is seeking a hugely important result to boost his chances of winning a place on The 2011 European Tour as one of the top 20 Ranked players at the conclusion of next week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
The Italian is currently Ranked 23rd on the Challenge Tour and could seal his card by winning the US$ 40,000 first prize on offer at the stunning JW Marriott Mirage City Golf Club before the season finale in his homeland next week.
Eight birdies and just a single dropped shot saw Tadini establish a two stroke lead over Switzerland’s Julien Clément, Scotland’s George Murray and Dutchman Floris de Vries, with McIlroy posting a one under 71 to lie in a tie for 22nd.
With much of the focus understandably turning to Ryder Cup star McIlroy, the Challenge Tour players got down to business at this most crucial stage of the season with Tadini taking the first round spoils by establishing a new course record at the Cairo venue.
“I had my lucky trousers on today – I will have to make sure I wear them on Sunday!” smiled Tadini. “Everything was good today, the long game was fantastic and I putted beautifully. I only three-putted once but the rest of the time I putted great: that’s why I made eight birdies out there.
“I need a big week to get my card. I think if I can finish in the top three here then I will probably get my card quite easily but I don’t like to think like that and try to make calculations – I just want to try and go out and play golf. I don’t even look at leaderboards when I am on the course so I really try to not think about the Rankings and what I need to do until the season is over.
“It is difficult to do that because everyone talks about at this time of year but as soon as you start to think like that, about what you need to do and how much money you need to make then it can affect your game.”
Despite dropping a shot late in the day of the opening round, Clément, currently 42 on the rankings and therefore just inside the all-important top 45 places that guarantees a Grand Final spot next week, was pleased with his opening effort, as were De Vries and Murray who are both looking to consolidate their places among the Challenge Tour’s top ten.
“I am very happy with that because I have been playing well for the last couple of weeks and not scoring at all and then today I didn’t play great but scored well,” said De Vries.
“I didn’t drop a shot today and felt pretty good on the back nine so I am confident for tomorrow and the rest of the week. The course here is great – it was a very nice surprise to come here and find one of the best courses we have played on all year.
“The greens are fantastic and the rough is punishing if you hit it in the wrong spots so it’s great test for us: if you play really well then you are going to make a good score but if you are off then you can be a lot over par.
“I am thinking about the Tour next year obviously but I want to take care of business over the next couple of weeks then I can take some time off and really get ready for next year.”
Murray is in a similar frame of mind to his Dutch counterpart and would love to continue to score well over the next three days in the hope of securing a weekend tee-time alongside McIlroy.
“It was a good day, one of those days where I was level one minute and then five under the next,” said the Scotsman.
“I played well here last year so hopefully I can do that again because it is a big week for me – if I can have a good finish here then that would go a long way to securing my place in the top ten on the Rankings which is what you want because it gives you a great Tour card for next year.
“As long as I don’t think about that on the golf course then I will be alright. I am looking forward to be on the Tour next year and have had a great season this year so I am pretty proud of that – I just want to finish it off in these next two weeks.
“It’s great that Rory is here – I played against him in my amateur days and even then you knew that he was a special talent. And he has improved a hell of a lot since then, you don’t get to World Number Nine by accident – he is a class act. It would be great to play with him in the last group this week to gauge how far I have to go and to see just how good he is.”
McIlroy struggled to show how good he is for most of the first round but managed to give the watching crowds a glimpse of his undoubted class at the end of his round.
Two over par with three holes to play, the Northern Irishman birdied his way home to move to one under and keep himself well in contention with 54 holes to play.
“The first nine holes were probably the worst nine holes I have played all year,” said the 21 year-old. “I hit two fairways and three greens which tells the story really – I think I had 14 putts on the front nine for one over and got up and down from a flowerbed on the ninth so you are probably getting the picture there.
“I spent two hours on the range this morning working on the changes I have been trying make to my swing but I didn’t quite trust it on the course. I am working on my take-away and the way I am setting it on the way back. The club was getting inside on the way back so my left arm was getting away from me and then I on the way down I was coming over the plane so everything was going left.
“Because I was starting it left I was reluctant to release the club so every shot that I missed today I missed right but it was just one of those things.
“It is always the case when you are trying to make a change that the last place it comes good is on the golf course but I stuck with it on the back nine, played a bit better and made three nice birdies to finish which was great. I’m happy to shoot one under as it could have been worse.
“I still feel that I can go out tomorrow morning, carry on the way I finished today, make a few birdies and get right back in it.”
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