Andrea Pavan made a blistering start to the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda, carding a sublime nine under par 63 in the first round to lead by two shots.
The Italian had eight birdies, an eagle and one bogey at Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim in southern Austria to lead from Germany’s Christophe Günther, the 2009 champion, Swede Bjorn Åkesson and England’s Matthew Southgate.
Englishman Charlie Ford and Austrian Roland Steiner are another shot back at six under in the €160,000 event, and five players – including another Austrian, Christoph Pfau – are at five under.
Pavan was delighted with his score but said there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“I started off with a birdie which is always nice, but I struggled a little with my driver the whole round,” said the 22 year old, playing the event for the first time. “I played the front nine really well with my irons but even though I was five under I didn’t feel that great off the tee.
“With my irons, I was hitting it stiff all day. I almost made a hole-in-one on the fourth and put it very close on the fifth with my approach. They were pretty easy birdies.
“The back nine I think I only hit two fairways so I was always trying to work it in from the rough. Luckily I had some decent lies and could get it close a few times, and I was putting pretty well.
“I bogeyed the 12th which I wasn’t very happy with. I didn’t have a good lie in the rough and I was just trying to play it safe in the middle of the green. The only place I didn’t want to go was short left and I ended up there and made a bogey.
“I had couple of good breaks but I was happy to take advantage of those. It’s been a tough start to the year because I’ve been struggling with my confidence a bit – on the greens especially. My irons were always pretty good but I wasn’t holing many putts or going through good stretches. So today it was nice to hit good shots and make the putts. These greens are hard to read so it was even more satisfying.”
Defending champion Günther had five consecutive birdies on his front nine, prompting memories of the course record 62 he shot here two years ago en route to victory.
“I’d be lying if I said that didn’t go through my head,” he said. “I teed off from the tenth and I’ve always found the front nine a bit tougher, so on my back nine I couldn’t quite get to ten under.
“I had one putt that maybe I should have made but holed plenty of others which don’t usually go in, so overall I’m very pleased. I felt very comfortable and I enjoy coming here.”
Åkesson attributed his fine score to his putting, saying: “I’ve been playing well for a long time now and today I played the best round of putting I’ve ever done. I played solid golf and holed so many long putts. That was why I was seven under.
“My putting has felt good all season. I’m a pretty streaky putter, but when I find it I hole a lot of putts. And today I found it.”
Steiner, who was a member of Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim in his late teens, said: “It was a great day for me with a very good end. The start was not as good as I’d expected and I had a double bogey at the third. But I know on this course if you wait and stay patient you will get your chances, especially from the 13th onwards.
“It’s a very good starting round. On this course you can always shoot low. We saw that two years ago when Christophe Günther shot a 62. It’s a pretty easy course if you’re playing well.”
There were hole-in-ones for Alexandre Chopard and Klass Eriksson, both at the eighth. Remarkably, it was also at the eighth hole that Martin Wiegele had an ace in the final round last year and the year before.