Florian Fritsch flew into an early lead in the Norwegian Challenge after shooting a sensational round of 64 at Miklagard Golf Club.
The German, whose fear of flying forces him to drive across Europe to tournaments, went out in 32 and raced home in the same number of strokes to set the pace on eight under par, one shot clear of the French duo of Benjamin Hebert and Guillaume Cambis, who made a hole in one for the second week running.
There was also much for the locals to cheer, as amateur starlets Viktor Hovland and Kristian K Johannessen both made highly impressive starts with respective rounds of 69 and 67.
The highlight of Fritsch’s round was a birdie putt from 30 feet on the 12th hole – one of only 27 putts in a round which equalled his lowest of the season.
His flawless display continued a rich vein of form for Fritsch, who currently sits in 11th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings thanks chiefly to four top six finishes which include a runner-up in the Belgian Challenge Open, where he lost a play-off to England’s William Harrold.
That was the third runner-up finish of Fritsch’s Challenge Tour career – he also lost in a play-off in Brittany in 2009 – but the 28 year old is determined to go one better this week in Oslo.
He said: “If you don’t get the putter going you’re not going to shoot a 64, so it won’t surprise you to learn I holed a lot of putts today. But it wasn’t just my putter – all aspects of my game were working pretty well, so it was a good all-round performance.
“There are three rounds left to play, but I’d love to be in contention to win some Sunday afternoon. I’ve been out here on the Challenge Tour a fair few years now and have knocked on the door a few times, without managing to get the job done. So I’d really like to get a win this season, because even if I managed to get back onto the main Tour I’d feel I was missing something without a victory on my record.”
Hebert already has three Challenge Tour victories on his resumé, and looked to be on his way to adding a fourth in Azerbaijan last week before his title challenge unravelled with a closing round of 76.
But the 27 year old from Brive swiftly banished all memories of that bitter disappointment with a superb round of 65 which included nine birdies.
Hebert said: “Obviously it was very disappointing the way I finished in Azerbaijan, but if someone had offered me a top ten at the start of the week I probably would’ve taken it, so I have to take the positives.
“Any time you have a three-shot lead going into the final day, you’re going to be disappointed if you finish seventh. But it wasn’t because I felt under pressure – I just felt tired, and didn’t seem to have any energy. I got off to a bad start, and never really recovered from it. But it was great to play well again today, and hopefully I can keep it going the whole week this time.”
His compatriot Cambis has endured a stuttering season to date, and is currently languishing in 172nd place in the Rankings.
But three weeks ago the 26 year old made the conscious decision to try to enjoy the perks of his trade more, and the positive outlook appears to be paying dividends as he carded an immaculate round of 65.
The highlight was his pinpoint seven iron to the 15th hole, which pitched four feet short of the flag and bounced straight into the cup.
Having also made an ace in Azerbaijan last week, it would seem the Frenchman’s fortunes are finally beginning to turn after missing five cuts in his last six appearances.
He said: “It’s been a very tough season, and I haven’t enjoyed it so a few weeks ago I told myself to be happier and try to enjoy every day. If you turn up at the start of the tournament feeling unhappy, then you’re not going to play well so I need to try to change my mood and so far this week it has worked very well.
“I felt calm and relaxed on the first tee today, which hasn’t always been the case for me this year. Then I felt even happier after my hole in one on the 15th. At first I had no idea it had gone in because even though there were some people around the green, nobody cheered.
“But then I walked up to the green, saw my pitch mark just short of the flag, and found my ball in the hole. So they must be a very hard crowd to please here. Maybe if I get another hole in one tomorrow they might cheer me then!”
The Australian duo of Nathan Holman and Scott Arnold currently share fourth place on six under par, ahead of a raft of players on five under par which includes home hero Johannessen.
Holman posted six birdies in a flawless 66, whilst the only blemish in Arnold’s round was a bogey at the par five 13th hole.