Englishman Jamie Moul made light work of a tough course by shooting a five under par 65 to take the first round lead in the Acaya Open in Italy.
The 26 year old had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys at Acaya Golf Resort to lead five players – Elliot Saltman of Scotland, Austrian HP Bacher, South African Branden Grace, Anthony Snobeck of France and Swede Henrik Norlander - by three shots.
The general consensus after the first day was that the course – part of the Challenge Tour schedule for the first time this season - is one of the hardest but fairest on the Challenge Tour schedule, but Moul’s tactics worked perfectly.
“I hit a lot of fairways and kept it out of that thick rough,” he said. “Even on the par fives, where you might be tempted to go for the green in two, I just stayed sensible and made sure it was on the fairway.
“I had a chip-in for eagle at the seventh which was nice. I didn’t do anything fantastic, just kept it in play. One of my strengths is hitting it straight so this course is set up nicely for me. Although it doesn’t look particularly tight the rough is so punishing it’s just about keeping it on the fairway.
“I’ve been hitting it well the last month or so, just not getting as much out of my rounds as I’d like. It’s nice to come off with a 65 today and feel like I got everything out of it. This score has been coming for a while. My putting hasn’t been fantastic but I’m working on it and it feels like it’s improving week by week.
“So far the courses we’ve played in Italy have been the best. It’s a great country – the weather’s perfect and the food’s always good so I can’t complain.”
Saltman made up for the disappointment of missing the Barclays Scottish Open this week with a fine opening effort. The 29 year old’s category did not give him exemption to the European Tour event at Castle Stuart, and he said: “It would’ve been nice to play in my home country on The European Tour but it’s a good thing I’m here for the weather as I’ve heard it’s pouring with rain in Scotland and it’s 30 degrees here.
“I thought I might have had an invite, but they say things happen for a reason so if missing that means I play well here and maybe win, then I’ll have no regrets.
“It’s very hard so I’ll take two under. I’ve been playing well since the Wales Open. I’ve been hitting the ball great and I’ve been putting great, but a few weeks have gone by where nothing’s been happening.
“I’ve just been keeping patient and plodding along knowing it will come, and something just clicked today. If I can keep it going hopefully it’ll be a good week.”
Bacher, who had five birdies and three bogeys, said: “I started very well with two birdies. The second one was really good – I hit a very good 4-iron off the tee then chipped in for a two.
“On this course if you hit the fairways and greens it’s not that hard. But the rough is thick so it’s very hard to control the ball of you go in it. If you’re around 150 metres away and in the rough, it’s very difficult to get the ball on the green.”
Norlander added: “My finish was great – three birdies in the last four holes to get back to two under. I played well all day though. I missed a few short putts at the start but my driving was good and I hit a lot of fairways – that’s the key here.
“This is only my third Challenge Tour event and I’m enjoying it. I played college golf for four years at Augusta State and graduated in May and turned professional two weeks ago.”