Daniel Gaunt is eyeing a return to the winner’s circle after a strong opening round at the Najeti Open put him tied at the top of the leaderboard at Aa Saint-Omer Golf Club.
The Australian has two European Challenge Tour titles to his name, the most recent a victory in the Telenet Trophy in 2013, but a first round of 65 left him level with Victor Riu and Duncan Stewart on six under par overnight.
The 37 year old was the first man out on course on day two, though heavy rain curtailed play after just 40 minutes, having already delayed the start by two hours.
Gaunt arrived in France having shown some fine recent form in finishing tied for fourth at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge, and he credited his experience of the tricky Saint-Omer course as a key factor in his good start.
I've been playing well of late - that was probably as stress-free as I've been, it was a good round
“I have been playing well of late,” he said. “I just feel like there’s been sloppy mistakes in there every time I’ve played, but the first round was probably as stress-free as I’ve been for I don’t know how long, so it was a good round.
“I didn’t get here until Wednesday night so I didn’t play a practice round. I’ve been around here so many times so I just went home and rested, but I came out and played really nicely.
“I actually think it works out better because you can hit good shots and get penalised and hit bad shots and they come off alright, but that’s Saint-Omer and we have to deal with it.
“It’s vital around here just to know where you’re going, especially second shots into the greens, knowing where to put it and knowing how some greens react and others don’t.
“It’s important to know the course well and I think I’ve sort of figured out how to play it and hopefully I can continue that this week.
“The course is the best I’ve seen it since I’ve been coming here and the greens are running really nicely so I can’t complain about that, but you have to hit it in the right spot.”
Gaunt is hopeful of repeating his 2010 season on the Challenge Tour, when he claimed a maiden title and finished seventh in the Rankings to graduate to the European Tour, and he believes this week could provide the breakthrough to a great 2016.
“I am confident about this week,” he said. “I don’t come to tournaments to finish second, and if I do well then it’s a good week but obviously we’re all playing to win tournaments.
“I sent a text to a mate earlier saying that I do think a win is just around the corner. But it’s only one round, there’s still 54 holes to go, and if I’m in contention with nine holes to go I’ll start worrying about it.
“In the Czech Republic I shot 19 under and usually that’s good enough to win around there. The scores are definitely there so it’s now just about limiting the damage.”