Victor Riu fired a course record 63 to lead by two strokes at nine under par at the end of a low scoring first round at the Bad Griesbach Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort.
The Frenchman leads by two from Germany’s Nicolas Meitinger, England’s Chris Hanson and Belgium’s Pierre Relecom, who all posted seven under par on the Beckenbauer Course.
Riu got his round off to the ideal start with four birdies in his first nine holes, picking up shots at the third, sixth, eighth, and ninth, before an eagle at the par five tenth really kicked his round into top gear.
Further birdies at the 11th and 14th saw the Frenchman go eight under par for his round, before the only dropped shot of the day at the 16th had looked like derailing his progression to the top of the leaderboard.
However, he has been in good form of late after a tie for 16th last week in Austria, and he bounced back from that bogey with a couple of birdies at the 17th and 18th to finish off a fine opening round.
“I played very well, I’m very happy, everything was very good,” admitted a satisfied Riu. “The course looks very nice, it is playing very long but the greens are good, and I’m playing pretty solid at 23rd on the Challenge Tour Ranking, so I’m very happy.
“I have never won as a professional so it would be great after six years to win here this week.”
In a tie for second place, two strokes adrift, is Meitinger who took advantage of being on home soil to card seven birdies and no dropped shots on Thursday.
The German has struggled of late on the greens, but he started the week by putting his old broom handle putter back in the bag, and it seemed to do the trick. The last time he put it in the bag was two years ago, and that week he won the 2011 ALLIANZ Challenge de France.
“I changed to the broomstick after struggling the last couple of weeks and I putted really, really well today,” admitted the German. “The course is good, challenging, and you have to strike it really well as the greens are good and give you a lot of birdie chances.
“My ball striking is good but if you don’t have the confidence with the putting it is tough to play well, but the broomstick is working. I put it in the bag two years ago and won straight away, and it has been in the basement for the last couple of months, so hopefully it brings the luck back.”
On the same mark as Meitinger is England’s Hanson who shot the joint lowest round of the afternoon thanks to a couple of long range birdies, but he also had his chances to go much lower, which pleased the Huddersfield resident.
“I played nicely today after really struggling last week in Austria,” said Hanson. “But I managed to get home Saturday night and get a lesson Tuesday with my coach and worked on some things with him and really played quite nice.
“I missed a couple of birdies from within four feet, but I made up for it by holing – I wrote it down I was so surprised – putts from 20, 35 and 40 feet. But overall it was just really nice to post a score, especially after last week.”
The last to join the trio at seven under par after the opening round was Relecom who based his 65 on solid irons into the greens and playing smart from the tees.
He said: “I started in the rain, playing well and hitting good shots, I just need to get the putter going as last week I was eight under for four rounds, but hit 15 or 16 greens on average, so it is all about making the putts and hopefully it will happen all week, and not just today.
“You’ve just got to plot your way round this course and give yourself as many chances as possible, and yeah, I’m feeling good for the rest of the week.”
Jerome Lando Casanova played alongside the leading Riu in the opening round, and he too was in top form, with four birdies in a row from the tenth the key to his six under par 66 in Bad Griesbach.
The Frenchman is in a tie for third alongside the Dutch duo of Daan Huizing and Robin Kind, the latter of which is making his Challenge Tour debut this week.
Adam Gee got off to one of the fastest starts of the day in the third group out from the first, carding seven birdies in his first ten holes, but a costly double at 11 and a bogey at 15 saw him finish with a 67, a score matched by Norway’s Knut Borsheim, two time European Tour winner Kenneth Ferrie, and a whole host of other top talent.
One shot further back at four under par and in a tie for 15th is former US Amateur Champion Byeong-hun An, who finished runner up at the Scottish Hydro Challenge presented by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts a fortnight ago.
The Korean’s playing partner Nick Dougherty shot one over as he continues to search for his best form, while former tennis World Number One Yevgeny Kafelnikov finished with a six over par 78.