Anthony Grenier made an explosive start to the Roma Golf Open after a blistering eight under par 63 over the redesigned Olgiata Golf Club saw the Frenchman establish a one stroke lead over Spaniard Adrien Otaegui.
Two under at the turn, Grenier produced a blistering seven birdies and no dropped shots on the back nine to come home in 29 and post the eight under lead.
Grenier has spent the past month focussing on a new driving range business back home in France so there were fewer more surprised people to be signing for an opening 63 than the man himself.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” smiled Grenier. “I had no expectations today so I just tried to go out and enjoy the day and to try to play well and everything worked nicely.
“I had not hit a ball, made a putt or had any practice over the past two months so I was not expecting to make such a great score. Hopefully I can do the same again tomorrow.”
Grenier and Otaegui can probably lay claim to being the most relaxed men in the field at the Roma Golf Challenge.
The Frenchman is playing the tournament purely for enjoyment, while the young Spaniard, having only turned professional three months ago, is gathering vital experience for his first full season as a professional next year.
The rest of their Challenge Tour colleagues are doing battle for the all-important top 45 places in the Rankings in order to qualify for the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in three weeks.
Portugal’s José Filipe Lima, England’s Sam Little, Scotland’s Callum Macaulay and Victor Riu of France share third spot on the leaderboard on five under, with five players on four under and a further seven tied on three under.
Little, Lima and Riu, respectively second, 28th and 35th in the Rankings are all guaranteed a place in the Grand Final, but Macaulay – currently 61st – needs to finish in the top three this week to continue his Challenge Tour campaign at the season’s finale, when the top 20 players from the season will win a place on the 2012 European Tour.
Having vowed to ‘attack attack attack’ the par 71 Olgiata Golf Club, Macaulay made the perfect start by holing his second shot to his first hole of the day – the par four tenth – for a brilliant eagle two.
“Well I said I was going to attack and I couldn’t do anything but burst out laughing when I holed my second shot on the first hole of the day,” smiled Macaulay. “I had 104 yards to the hole and just hit a nice 56 degree wedge that bounced about six inches out and went straight in.
“It was a great start but then flirted with a couple of silly bogeys after that but then the back nine was as well as I have played all year and I could have been a couple of shots better off but I missed a couple of four footers for birdie.
“I’m delighted though – if you had offered me five under at the start of the round I would have taken it. I have nothing to lose this week and I feel very relaxed and really enjoyed it. I actually had a lesson over the phone from my coach Ian Rae the other day and managed to solve the problem I was having with the swing straight away.”
Little, meanwhile, has his own agenda as he seeks a third victory in the space of five weeks. The Englishman was struggling to break into the top 45 before his back-to-back victories in the M2M Russian Challenge Cup and the Allianz Golf Open du Grand Toulouse propelled him to second place on the Rankings, just under €12,000 behind Number One Tommy Fleetwood.
“It was another good day,” said the 36 year old Little. “And hopefully I can make up some ground on the young whipper-snapper above me in the Rankings! Tommy and I have been having nice bot of friendly banter about winning the Rankings and it will be a great battle all the way to the end of the Grand Final.
“It’s amazing what momentum and confidence can do for you in this game,” Little continued. “Before I won in Russia I was struggling to make it to the Grand Final and now I have a chance of winning the Rankings five weeks later.”
While Little is riding a wave of supreme confidence at the moment, it will be a nervy second round for many of the players trying desperately to either maintain their places in the top 45 or break into the elite group that will move forward to the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in three weeks.