By Nick Totten, europeantour.com
From Golf & Spa Kunetická Hora
On a blustery and very wet opening day at Golf & Spa Kunetická Hora, Daniel Gaunt streaked four strokes clear of the chasing pack thanks to an exemplary eight under par round of 64 at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge.
As the rain lashed down for much of the day in the Czech Republic, the Englishman seemed unaffected, carding six birdies round the turn to bounce back from a double bogey at the second and pull clear of Max Glauert, Chris Lloyd and Pierre Relecom.
On an otherwise tightly packed leaderboard east of Prague, 51 players finished within four strokes of those in second place, with every single player no doubt thankful for the shelter the clubhouse provided at the end of a testing first day.
As for Gaunt, he was understandably ecstatic with such an impressive 18 holes, with one of his playing partners commenting that he “holed the world” as they left the recording area.
“I’m not sure where that came from, but it’s the best I’ve putted since 2010, when I played really well,” said last season’s Telenet Trophy winner. “I pretty much holed everything I looked at today, and I know eight under is a great score, but there’s a long way to go and I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.
“I do practice hard on my short game when I’m at home, and I changed putter yesterday in the Pro-Am. I was using a blade that I used when I first started playing, which must be about 30 years old, but I changed yesterday. I had a lesson from Scott Arnold too on my driving, which was a bit dodgy early on, but I started to get some more confidence with that.
“Today was a good day, and I was in the zone I think. Yesterday playing Texas Scramble helped as it gets your mind set right, as I’ve been wanting to hole putts but haven’t been committed enough and too worried about the next putt. Today I just wanted to knock them in and I putted really well.
“The weather was brutal, it was so hard I just ended up putting my umbrella away, taking off the rain cover, and just be done with it. You know you’re going to get wet and cold, you just have to go with it and I think it helps. You just go out and play, hit the shots, and I did that today.”
“A good score has been coming, I’ve been saying it for a while to my wife, and the hard work is starting to pay off. There are three days to go, but three more of those and I should be alright.
As for the chasing pack, it was Lloyd who might be most pleased with his play on Thursday, having struggled for his best form so far this season, thanks to a change in coach.
The Bristolian has returned to the tutor he first worked with at the age of ten, and after a two year break, the improvement is starting to show.
“I was very happy, as the weather was pretty miserable, and it wasn’t much fun,” said the 22 year old. “To go round today without a bogey was very pleasing. It was just one of those days to keep it in play and have a good attitude. The score wasn’t necessarily going to be great with the weather, but I took my opportunities when I got them, played smart, and when the weather’s that bad a good attitude really helps.
“I have struggled so far as I’m just going through a few changes, having gone back to seeing my old coach, and it’s only been a few weeks. A fortnight ago in Turkey wasn’t the kind of course that would suit someone going through changes, and last week I played very steady but just didn’t hole much.
“I did some work Monday afternoon on my putting, found something, and I played really nice today. In a way, for me, it was good today that the weather was bad as you forget everything swing related and just try and get the ball from A to B and keep it in play.”
Relecom is alongside Lloyd in second after a bizarre incident on the 11th tee, his second hole of the day, when his playing partner’s club snapped on the downswing and propelled the club head onto the Belgians hand.
Thankfully the incident only resulted in a small bruise for the man on minus four, and he went on to play some of the best golf of this season so far. It was a similar story for Glauert, who is also in the best position he has been in for a while.
Behind them in a tie for fifth is form horse Cyril Bouniol, who is having a fine maiden campaign on European golf’s second tier. The Frenchman is alongside 2010 Rankings winner Alvaro Velasco, who countered four birdies with a solitary dropped shot on Thursday to put himself into a fine position after 18 holes.
A duo of Czech players have also fared well in the opening round, with Lukáš Lizánek and amateur Šimon Zach finishing the day in a share of 38th position at level par.