The in-form trio of Spaniard Jorge Campillo, Italian Federico Colombo and Englishman Jamie Moul made early moves to set the pace on five under par on the opening day of the Credit Suisse Challenge.
With just one bogey between them, the trio tamed Golf Sempachersee’s Woodside Course, which at 7,201 yards is the longest in Switzerland.
All three players are currently inside the top 15 of the Challenge Tour Rankings, with Moul rocketing to ninth place courtesy of his debut professional victory at last week’s Acaya Open.
The former World Amateur Number One, whose home club Stoke by Nayland will host next week’s English Challenge, has endured a lean spell since joining the professional ranks in 2007, but is now starting to fulfil the potential which was first evident in his victories at the St Andrews Trophy and the Lytham Trophy in 2006, and the 2007 English Amateur Open Stroke Play Championship.
Moul’s round of 66 exploded into life with five successive birdies from the tenth hole, and although he was unable to add any further gains, the 26 year old was nonetheless delighted to maintain his form and momentum.
He said: “I feel like I’ve been playing nicely all year, even if my scores haven’t always reflected that. So I had to stay patient but thankfully now I’m being rewarded for my good play, and I just hope that can continue for the next three days and the rest of the season.
“I played very well today – obviously making five birdies in a row was the highlight. I actually started off a bit slowly, with nine straight pars on the front nine, but after my birdie on the tenth I was off and running. Most of the birdie putts were from about ten or 12 feet, and I actually had another one from about the same distance on the 15th for six in a row, but it just lipped out.
“I can’t remember the last time I had six or even five birdies in a row in a tournament, but it must’ve been quite a while. Then I got a nice bit of fortune on the 17th hole, where my drive bounced off the referee’s buggy, which carried my ball about 20 yards further. It was still in the rough, but it wasn’t as thick as it would’ve been!
“The rough’s definitely up compared to last year, and with it being so wet the course is obviously playing much longer as well – although a few of the tees have been moved forward because of wet landing areas. So there are still some birdie chances out there, it’s just a question of taking them as and when they come along.”
Campillo, who chased Moul home at the Acaya Open, dropped just one shot in his round of 65, with a three-putt bogey on the 15th hole.
But the Spaniard, who finished in a tie for fifth place on his Challenge Tour debut at the 2009 Credit Suisse Challenge, was keen to accentuate the positives.
He said: “I felt very comfortable out on the course today, and hardly got into any trouble all day. The only real mistake was a silly three-putt on the 15th, but other than that I played very solid, sensible golf. The course is playing way longer than last year, but considering the amount of rain we’ve had, the greens are in very good shape. So if the weather holds up for the next few days and the course dries out even more, you could see some low scoring.
“Obviously I’m very happy with my form at the moment. Of course it was disappointing not to get the win last week, but I still played very well on the final day – it’s just that Jamie was playing even better. He was playing in the group ahead and I saw that he was making a lot of putts, so I knew he was making a move. I thought I’d thrown the tournament away with a double bogey on the 16th, but I was pleased with the way I recovered with a birdie on the 17th, and then I made another chance on the 18th but just couldn’t take it. But hopefully Jamie lets me have my turn this week!”
The highlight of Colombo’s round was an eagle three at the 13th hole, where he struck a six iron to six feet and duly rolled in the putt.
The Italian, currently third in the Challenge Tour Rankings after five top ten finishes in nine outings so far this season, closed with his third birdie of the day to join Campillo and Moul at the top of the leaderboard.
Colombo said: “I missed a very makeable birdie on the 17th hole, but made up for it with a birdie on the 18th. So it was the perfect end to a good round – any time you keep the bogeys off your card is a good day. I probably created birdie chances at pretty much every hole, so it was a very solid round, especially with my irons. It was just about hitting fairways and greens – the 16th was the only green I missed all day. I left a few putts out there, but a 65 is still a good score, so I don’t want to get greedy. But if the course gets drier over the next few days scoring should get even easier, so I’ll have to take most of the chances I make.”
With the afternoon starters yet to complete their rounds, six players currently share fourth place on four under par after carding rounds of 67.