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Thursday, 09 August 2012
Alvaro Velasco  (EuropeanTour)
Alvaro Velasco (EuropeanTour)
Former Rankings winner Alvaro Velasco returned to the top of the pile on the Challenge Tour, this time at the Norwegian Challenge where the Spaniard carded a superb seven under par round of 65 to take the overnight lead after the first day.

That handed Velasco a one shot advantage over Englishman Matt Haines at Byneset GK, near Trondheim, where the interest in local man Elias Bertheussen was growing as the 21 year old was just three shots off the pace.

Coincidentally, Haines was the man who finished second to Velasco in the 2010 Challenge Tour Rankings, having won the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final right before his Spanish counter-part was crowned Number One.

Velasco opened with three pars, after teeing off on the 10th, before picking up his first shot at the par three 13th. He followed that up immediately with two more birdies at the 14th and 15th before carding an eagle at the par five 17th, and three birdies on the way home allied with a bogey at the third put him in pole position.

“I really enjoyed it today,” said Velasco, who won two tournaments on the way to becoming Challenge Tour Rankings Number One in 2010. “The weather stayed pretty OK and my game was good so it was a nice day for me. I started really well and I didn’t finish great but I hung in there to get some pars.

“Three out of four of the par fives are reachable and there are a few short par fours so there are good chances for birdies out there. But there are some tough holes too and the short holes can be tough if you don’t play the right shots, so it’s a fair course.

“I've been playing well this year but my scores haven’t shown that. I'm seeing improvement though so I need to keep doing that. I have to make sure I keep driving well here because it’s key and if I can do that then the course will suit me nicely.”

Haines, meanwhile, had an excellent front nine to thank for his six under par 66 as the 22 year old started with a birdie on the tenth hole, his first, before birdies at the next two par threes, the 13th and 15th, were followed by a bogey at the 16th.

He bounced back from that blip in style though as he eagled the par five 17th before two more birdies on the way back, at the first and fourth holes, put him right into to contention for a second Challenge Tour title.

There were 12 players a shot further back on five under par in a packed leaderboard with plenty of experience lurking behind Velasco, three time Challenge Tour winner Alessandro Tadini and the winner of the first tournament of the 2012 schedule, Max Kieffer, amongst them.

Also in tied third was Kristoffer Broberg, who continued in the same vein of form that earned him the Finnish Challenge title last week, in just his second appearance on the Challenge Tour.

It was Bertheussen who commanded all the local attention as the man from Trondheim carded a four under par 68 to lie three shots off the pace in tied 15th.

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