Welshman Stuart Manley and England’s Ben Parker were the pick of the morning starters in the first round of the Swiss Challenge, both carding seven under par 64 in benign conditions at Golf Sempachersee near Lucerne.
The pair lead by two shots from Englishmen Adam Gee and David Griffiths, Frenchman Adrien Bernadet, Austrian Manuel Trappel and home hope Martin Rominger, and it was déjà vu for Manley, who was tied second here three years ago with four rounds in the 60s for a 21 under par total.
Four birdies in his last five holes today meant he went one better than his lowest effort in 2010, and the 34 year old attributed his fine start to a hot putter.
“I putted great,” said the Aberdare man, who has had two top ten finishes this season to lie 30th in the Rankings. “I didn’t play well at the start – it was early and it was all a bit scruffy – but I made some great up-and-downs to keep the momentum going, and I holed some excellent putts on the back nine.
“It’s a lovely course. The set-up this year is fantastic. The way they’ve got the rough on the edges of fairways and greens is just what we want. We want it like this every week because it helps prepare us for European Tour courses, and that’s what we’re all striving for. Hats off to the greenkeepers here, they’ve done a great job.”
Manley is feeling the benefits of a new physique, honed from spending the last year working hard in the gym.
“I’ve lost a couple of stone in the last 12 months,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get in better shape. I’ve been in the local gym – Breeze’s – and there’s a woman there who’s a Commonwealth gold medallist in powerlifting. She’s won medals everywhere and has been great with helping me. I’m not hitting it much further but I feel much better.”
For Parker, who birdied the last four holes, it was a welcome change in fortunes, having made just €5,000 from ten appearances this season.
“I’ve been playing really well recently, but I haven’t holed anything,” said the 25 year old. “I’ve missed so many cuts even though I’ve been playing well, which has been frustrating.
“My long game was great today – I think I only missed one green. I holed a few good putts early on, but missed a couple of six-footers for birdie. Then I two-putted the 17thfor birdie, and on the last I holed a 20-footer with a huge left to right swing, so it was a great finish.”