By Nick Totten, europeantour.com
From Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein
Two men looking to build on strong starts to this season at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda will be Rankings top ten men Lasse Jensen and Jérôme Lando Casanova.
Both have narrowly missed out on titles so far in 2014, and if this week were to go on form alone, then there would be few men more likely to take the title at Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein come Sunday afternoon.
Jensen almost began with a bang at the Barclays Kenya Open, narrowly losing out to eventual winner Jake Roos on a thrilling final afternoon at Karen Country Club. That performance gave the Dane great confidence after a difficult maiden campaign on The European Tour last year, where he eventually finished 171st in The Race to Dubai.
His return to Challenge Tour action has been impressive though, with his close call in Kenya backed up by ties for 20th on Spanish soil at both the NH Collection Open and the Challenge de Catalunya. That all adds up to sixth place on the Rankings so far, and he is in confident mood once again this week, at a course he really likes.
“I have had a very good start to the season and have been playing really steady,” said the 29 year old from Copenhagen. “Last week in Turkey was a really good test, it was a hard golf course, so it felt nice coming here on Monday as it is a bit more forgiving.
“The course here is in really great shape, the greens are just so pure. You need to read them from two or three angles to get the break, but the roll is really pure so it is a treat for us guys to play on greens like this.
“I learned a lot from my time on The European Tour last year. You get a bit more mature, play with some of the big guys, and you learn that on a good day you can beat anybody. I feel strong, and am looking very positively at the season, and hopefully this week some of the hard work can pay off with another great result.
“I think it is important to keep on track, not get too far ahead of yourself, because at the end of the year you want to graduate and finish in the top 15. How you get there, that really doesn’t matter. It would be nice to play some good golf over the summer though, and maybe relax a bit more mentally towards the end of the season.
“It’s tough out here on the Challenge Tour, having a tournament every week, and you can’t play all of them. You need to plan your schedule, and it is really important that you don’t burn all your energy before the season ends.”
Also in fine form so far this year, and himself up at seventh on the Challenge Tour Rankings is Frenchman Lando Casanova, who comes to Austria having had the best finish of his career last week at the Turkish Airlines Open.
He had lead after 54 holes at National Golf Club before falling away into a tie for second, but it was proof that the Cannes native has the game to compete on European golf’s second tier, as he continues to shine in his sophomore season.
“I am feeling good with my game, and I took a lot of confidence from last week in Turkey, so hopefully I will play well this week,” said the 28 year old. “I like this kind of course, it is easier than last week, but then so are a lot of courses! If the weather stays like this, and with a few tight pin positions, then it could be difficult. We’re certainly going to have fun this week.
“I had a great winter with my coach and I feel good with my game, and in my body as I have been playing a lot of sport. I’m playing well on the course, I’m playing well on the Challenge Tour, so maybe that is why the results are coming.
“I need to take some lessons from my first three holes last Sunday, I wanted too much to stick to my strategy, and was aiming too close to the pins. I perhaps should have been trying to make some pars, and let go a little. That is something I have learned.”
“Last year was my first year on the Challenge Tour so I didn’t really know how to play, how to feel with all the good players around. I learned a lot last year, so now this year I know exactly what to do.”
Jensen and Lando Casanova will be joined by a whole host of top talent looking to be King of the mountain in southern Austria, with a further six of the current top 15 on the Rankings set to tee it up on Thursday.
Scott Henry narrowly missed out on a maiden European Tour title a fortnight ago at the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI, losing in a play-off to Daniel Brooks, so he will be full of confidence in Carinthia this week as he looks to build on his third place in the Rankings.
While one place below the Scot, and victor in this season’s first event, is Barclays Kenya Open winner Jake Roos as he looks to add more silverware to the mantle this week.
Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson is also in Austria this week, as is Welshman Rhys Davies, as both look to build on solid starts to the season. While last week’s runner-up Dave Coupland will also tee it up on Thursday as he looks to move up from 17th on the Rankings, and into that all important top 15 that will graduate to The European Tour come season’s end.
The Challenge Tour. Where Heroes Are Made.