By Nick Totten, europeantour.com
From Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein
Looking down on the rest of the field at the end of day one at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda is a trio of top talent, thanks to three seven under par rounds of 64 on Thursday at Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein.
Pontus Widegren, amongst the early starters, set the pace on Thursday morning thanks to eight birdies and a single bogey, before Tom Murray and Max Orrin matched the Swede’s score in the afternoon.
Three birdies in a row from the first was the ideal start for Widegren, before a further five red figures on the back side were countered by a solitary bogey at the par five ninth.
This latest performance continues a fine run of form for the Stockholm native, who got his season off to the ideal start with a tie for fifth at the Barclays Kenya Open in March. He also finished in a share of 24th position a fortnight ago at the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI, and after today’s round, he is understandably brimming with confidence.
“I got off to a fast start today after I birdied my first three holes,” said the 23 year old. “I cooled off a little bit after that before making a six on the ninth, which was a bit unfortunate, but I played really well on the back nine and holed some good putts on the tenth and 15th, before a birdie at the last.
“I’ve been playing well this season, and starting with three birdies got me on a roll again. I played really well towards the end of last week in Turkey, and I felt like if I could just get the putter going early I could go low. It’s easy to putt on these greens, they’re beautiful, and rolling really well, so once I got hot with the putter I just started pouring them in.
“As for the rest of the week, I just want to keep it going, keep holing putts, and make as many birdies as possible. The golf course suits my game, it’s a great track and the greens are great, so if you strike it well you’ll have plenty of opportunities. If you can take advantage of a few of those, then it will be a very good week.”
Murray is alongside the Swede at the top of the leaderboard thanks to an eagle three at the ninth, which acted as a springboard for the Englishman, who subsequently followed it with a further five birdies in the next seven holes.
This is the Manchester native’s first start of the season on the Challenge Tour, but he took full advantage, and is looking for more of the same over the next three days.
“Today was a great start, I think I hit every green, so I played really solid,” said Murray. “I’ve been playing good back home, so to bring it out here was good. It was a bit of a roller coaster around the turn with eagles, birdies and bogeys, but I just tried to go with it. Had a three putt on the last hole, which made it a bit sour, but I holed enough putts to make up for that.
“Been playing locally at home, hoping to get into Challenge Tour events. I travelled to Turkey last week as first reserve, and didn’t get in, so just been trying to keep playing at home. I’ve been playing nicely in the freezing cold and the wind, but it is a little bit different out here in the sun and on smooth greens. I’ve been playing well though, so I half expected this.”
Rounding out the leading trio is Orrin, who nearly pulled out before the round had got under way, having struggled overnight with his breathing. Afterwards he was clearly delighted that he had decided to play, as he continues to learn his trade during a maiden season on Europe’s second tier.
“I was close to pulling out at the start of the day, I felt really rough,” said the 20 year old. “I’m not sure whether it was illness or just hay fever, but I could not really breathe last night, so I wasn’t sure whether to play. I’m glad I did now!
“This is my first year on the Challenge Tour and I’m trying to take in as much as I can. Last week the final round was tough, but playing today with guys like Jake (Roos) and Daniel (Gaunt), who have loads of experience, was great.”
One stroke adrift of the leading threesome is French duo Adrien Bernadet and Jérôme Lando Casanova, as well as Germany’s Florian Fritsch and England’s Paul Maddy.
Seven players lie a further shot back on five under par, in a group that includes former European Tour regular Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, who lost his card last year and is back on the Challenge Tour looking to find his best form.
Alongside Gonnet is the leading Austrian, HP Bacher, whose compatriot Lukas Nemecz is a shot further back at four under par. He is part of a group of 16 players on that mark, which includes Barclays Kenya Open winner Jake Roos, and one of last week’s runners-up, Dave Coupland.