Oscar Lengden fired the best European Challenge Tour round of his career to take the lead of the D+D REAL Czech Challenge after day one, aided by a brand new putter.
The change in short stick clearly helped the Swede as he rolled in nine birdies to sit atop the leaderboard after an eight under par opening round of 64, one shot clear of nearest rival Thomas Linard at Golf & Spa Kunětická Hora.
The 25 year old amassed seven top tens, including a win, on the Nordic Golf League last year to earn his playing rights on the 2017 Road to Oman and won the Lumine Hills Open, again on the satellite tour, only two months ago, but confessed to a drop in confidence ahead of this week – making his outstanding play even sweeter.
“Honestly, I’ve been feeling like a round like this was a long, long way off,” he said. “My self-confidence is pretty low at the moment, I’ve not been striking the ball well on the range at all and not really doing great on the course either.
“I’ve still been able to make a score out of it, but I’m kind of surprised today and hopefully it can be a turning point for me.
“Changing putter wasn’t that big a risk because I just felt it couldn’t be any worse than it was before! I’ve been struggling for a long time with my putting but suddenly it’s better, though maybe my ball striking is a little bit worse.
“It was definitely a risk, but one I was willing to take – and it paid off for me today as well.
“I had a great year last year and tried to carry that confidence with me to the Challenge Tour. I took a long break through December and didn’t touch a club, and I thought that was going to be a winning method, but when I came back my ball striking wasn’t there, and it hasn’t been there since.
“I thought during practice that this was actually a course that fits me well. You have to be kind of straight off the tee, hit quite a few wedges out there, and the new putter in the bag this week and has definitely been working so far.
“I actually missed a few short ones today but I made a lot of long ones as well so it kind of evens out, and I’m very pleased with the round.
“Today I was striking the ball well but it just doesn’t feel as good over the ball as it used to. I hit some really good iron shots today though so that fills me with a bit of hope.
“There wasn’t a lot of wind, it’s definitely a scoreable course – I could definitely sniff a 60 today, if I’d been really lucky, but I’ve made a good start so hopefully I can keep it going over the next few days.”
For Linard, it was like reacquainting himself with an old friend as the 2014 winner here in Drítec turned back the clock and rolled in the birdies – two on each of the closing holes taking the Frenchman to seven under par, very much in the mix for a second title.
Two shots further back are two of the form men of the 2017 Road to Oman so far, Julian Suri and Tapio Pulkkanen – numbers two and four in the Rankings respectively – who both opened with bogey-free rounds of 67.
Alongside them on five under, in a share of third place, is Liam Robinson, who only earned a place in this week’s field by coming through local qualifying, ultimately sealing the final spot on offer via a play-off.
The Englishman has made the most of his opportunity, not only shooting a fine opening round of 67 but also making a hole-in-one, his first in tournament golf, to win himself a €5,000 watch – Jack McDonald also had an ace on Day One, though not on a prize hole.
One shot further back are 11 players in a share of sixth place on four under par, including the Czech Republic’s own Jan Cafourek.