There were five star performances from seven players on day one of the Credit Suisse Challenge, where Jorge Campillo, Federico Colombo, Garry Houston, Jamie Moul, Andrea Pavan, Tim Sluiter and Daniel Vancsik all sit on top of a crowded leaderboard.
The in-form trio of Campillo, Colombo and Moul set the early pace with morning rounds of 66 at Golf Sempachersee near Lucerne, in Switzerland, and they were joined on five under par later in the day by Houston, Pavan, Sluiter and Vancsik.
Colombo, Moul and Sluiter took top marks for their flawless displays, but the best fightback of the day was mounted by Vancsik, who found himself two over par through three holes after struggling to adjust to the pace of the greens.
But a restorative birdie on the fifth hole lifted his spirits, and he roared home in just 29 shots to join the leaders on five under par.
The Argentine said: “I played well, but it took me a while to get the speed of the greens, because they’re still quite wet. But on my back nine I got up to speed, and I shot six under after the turn. I made a long putt on the 13th hole for eagle, but other than that my irons were the main reason for my low score.
“I’m now feeling much calmer out on the course, which is what I’ve been working hard on with my coach and my sports psychologist. I feel much more stable now, even when things aren’t going my way. It seems to be working well for now, but tomorrow’s another day!”
Pavan has also worked hard on harnessing his Latin temperament, having become frustrated with a series of below-par performances in recent weeks.
The young Italian came mightily close to breaking his duck in Austria, where he was pipped to the prize by Frenchman Edouard Dubois after leading for the first three days, since when he has suffered something of a slump in form, but he now feels that his game is moving in the right direction again.
He said: “I missed a lot of fairways on the first four or five holes, but I managed to recover well. After that I managed to sort my tee shots out, and my mood and my game steadily improved. I’ve lost my temper a few times over the last few weeks and got frustrated with myself, but this week I just told myself to stay patient and keep calm, whatever happens. I hung in there at times today and holed everything from close range, except for a short one on the 15th hole. But I managed to make a birdie on the 17th and holed a good par putt on the last, so I’m feeling quite content.”
Likewise, Houston was all smiles after taking just 25 putts in a round of 66 which included three birdies either side of the turn.
The Welshman revealed that he was inspired to post his lowest opening round of the season by his friend Thomas Björn’s stunning display at The Open Championship.
He said: “It was tremendous to see Thomas play so well this morning. I sent a text to congratulate him just before I went out, and I’m going to try to speak to him later on tonight if I can. It was pretty inspiring to watch, although I didn’t feel particularly inspired after bogeying the first. But I came back well with three birdies, thanks mainly to some good putting. I didn’t strike the ball as well as I would have liked so I’ll probably get here early in the morning to work on my swing on the range, but if I can sort a few things out and keep putting the way I did today, I might have half a chance.”
Sluiter opted to tee up on the Challenge Tour after missing out on qualification for The Open Championship, and the decision looks to be a shrewd one after the Dutchman kept the bogeys off his card in a sparkling round of 66.
He said: “My game was very sharp for the most part, although I struggled a little bit for the last few holes, but to make a birdie at the last was a great way to finish. I didn’t make a bogey all day long and only missed two greens, which is always very pleasing. The rough’s quite tough in places so it’s not easy, but I got off to a great start with a birdie at the first, and just carried it on from there.
“I’m just happy to be out playing really, because I my category didn’t get me into the last two events on the main Tour, so I didn’t want to have three weeks off. I’ve only played in around 12 events, but I should get in at least another ten events before the end of the season, so hopefully I can find my form at the right time and earn enough money to keep my card. I’m obviously going to have to play better than I have done, but I do feel my game is slowly coming together.”
Earlier in the day, Campillo, Colombo and Moul had 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 make 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.”
Campillo, who chased Moul home at the Acaya Open, dropped just one shot in his round of 66, 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.”
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.”