England’s Steven Brown and Sweden’s Simon Forsstrӧm share a two shot lead after the first round of the Kazakhstan Open as they both carded seven under par rounds of 65 at Zhailjau Golf Resort.
Forsstrӧm, who claimed his first European Challenge Tour title earlier this season at the KPMG Trophy in Belgium, carded five birdies on the front nine, making the turn in just 31 shots.
He then made consecutive gains on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes but bogeyed the last after a tricky bunker shot.
Despite this, the Swede remained upbeat as he goes in search of a second win of the season.
“It was a good round,” he said. “I played well and the putter worked very well today, probably the best it has so far this year.
“At the start of the round it was pretty windy, particularly on the first four holes. But then the wind direction changed so we played with the wind after that.
“It was nice to get off to a good start, particularly at a tournament like this.”
This week’s field is competing for a €72,000 first prize, the biggest of the 2016 season, which may well secure a number of players’ positions in the top 15 on the Road to Oman Rankings.
Brown, who is searching for a maiden victory on the Challenge Tour is in-form after finishing in the top 15 in his last four events, and is hoping to carry his strong performance into Friday’s second round.
“I’m really happy,” said Brown. “I played really well and have been playing good recently. I was solid today and made a couple of putts.
“I made some up and downs around nine and ten and felt really good after that.
“We’ve still got three quarters of the tournament to go yet, so we’ll see what happens.”
Portugal’s Ricardo Santos, a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour, carded his best round since the Tayto Northern Ireland Open in Partnership with Ulster Bank and sits in third place after his six under par round of 66.
“It was good to have two weeks off to practise, and my game is in good shape for the next few tournaments,” said Santos. “I hope to keep going like this during the week.
“I played solid today and my short game was really good too. I made two chip-ins, they were close to the hole but still chip-ins.
“It’s the biggest event we have this season so, to me, it’s the most important tournament we have.”
In a tie for fourth place are ten golfers on five under par, including Norwegian Olympian Espen Kofstad who is pleased to find a return to form.
“Considering how my summer has been, I’m really happy with today,” he said. “I’ve only played three times since I won in Slovakia because of a bad wrist and a bad back.
“I had a bad neck yesterday but I’m feeling good after seeing the physio. I can go back to the hotel and feel good about myself after today. It’s nice to have that score and I want to look forward and finish the season strongly.”
Seven golfers are a shot further back on four under par after carding rounds of 68.