Frenchman Christophe Brazillier gave his quest to climb the Challenge Tour rankings the perfect start in his home country yesterday when a superb course record nine under par 62 gave him the first round lead in the Golf Open Grand Toulouse.
The 31 year old was in blistering form at Golf de Toulouse-Seilh, his flawless card featuring nine birdies and nine par figures to help him open a three shot gap on his nearest challengers.
Currently 58th on the rankings in this, the fifth last counting event of the 2011 season, Brazillier admitted he has work to do to climb into the top 20 who will gain a card for The 2012 European Tour at the end of the season.
“I have had a bit of so-so season up until now,” he said. “I was third in the Telenet Trophy in Belgium in May but apart from that all my tournaments have featured some good stuff and some not so good stuff which explains where I am.
“I would love to make the top 20 at the end of the season but I have a bit of a gap to make up in terms of money. Obviously a win here would help with that and although there is a long way to go, I couldn’t have asked for a better start.”
Beginning at the tenth hole, the Frenchman sped from the blocks with four birdies in a row from the 11th before another two at the 17th and 18th saw him ‘out’ in 30. Further birdies followed at the first and fifth holes before a pitch to two metres at the ninth hole gave him the birdie which set the new record mark.
On a day of low scoring in the village of Seilh on the outskirts of Toulouse, five players ended the first round within three shots of Brazillier; the Scandinavian trio of Denmark’s Lasse Jensen, Norway’s Espen Kofstad and Sweden’s Robin Wingardh, alongside Englishman Ben Parker and James Byrne of Scotland.
For Walker Cup hero Byrne, it was the best possible start to his professional golfing life. The 22 year old Scot – who returned two points out of three at Royal Aberdeen two weeks ago as Great Britain and Ireland beat the United States 14-12 – was in hot form as he posted a six under par 65.
Indeed, had Byrne not dropped a shot at the last after finding water from the tee he would have got closer to Brazillier, but a brave 15 footer for bogey four enabled him to share second.
“I was a little disappointing to drop a shot at the last but overall I’m pretty pleased with the day,” said Byrne, who signed his professional forms last week.
“I got off to the best possible start with five birdies in my first eight holes and I actually had a putt from about six feet on the ninth green to be out in 29. Maybe because I was thinking about that number was the reason it didn’t go in but, as I said, I can’t complain.”
Clearly the runner up in the 2010 Amateur Championship is well equipped to deal with the challenges inside the ropes, but the Aberdonian admitted it is coping with life as a professional outside tournament play that will take the biggest adjustment.
“When you travelled with the Scotland squad or the GB&I squad, everything was taken care of for you and you knew when you were practicing and what was expected of you at most times during the day,” he said.
“However, being a professional, you have a lot of spare time in addition to all the travelling and hotels and it is that aspect I will have to try and manage properly. However this week is good experience for me and I’ll be looking to use that going forward to the Tour School later this year.”
Joining Byrne was Englishman Parker who, like the Scot, was experiencing a Challenge Tour event for the first time. The 24 year old – the son of German-based teaching professional Tim Parker and a regular on the EPD Tour – is a sponsor’s invite and carded seven birdies in total in his 65.
Alongside them was one of the last of the morning starters, Espen Kofstad, who had nine birdies in a remarkable 65, the first man on the course in round one, Lasse Jensen, who finished his round in style with four birdies in the final six holes, and Robin Wingardh who posted seven birdies in total.
Jensen – currently 47th on the Challenge Tour Rankings and looking for a good week to push towards the top 20 who will win cards for The 2012 European Tour at the end of the season – admitted he has been inspired by the recent performances of his fellow countryman on The European Tour, Thomas Bjorn, who won back to back recently in Scotland and Switzerland.
“He has always been a big idol of mine and I have looked up to him ever since he won his first tournament on The European Tour at Loch Lomond in 1996 as that was the year I first started playing golf,” said the 27 year old Dane.
“He has also had his ups and down in his career but I have always admired the way he has battled back and his form of late has shown just that. He continues to raise the profile of the game in Denmark and anything that helps golf in our country is a good thing.”