Oscar Lengden continued his winning form from last week as he fired an opening round of 68 to lead the Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort by one shot.
The Swede took a maiden victory in dramatic style at the Bridgestone Challenge but, just four days later, showed little sign of fatigue as he made seven birdies – more than anyone else – on a tough scoring day in Carlow to move one ahead of Jacopo Vecchi Fossa in second place.
Lengden has been on rare form in the last few weeks, with back-to-back career-best results on the European Tour preceding his Challenge Tour win in England, and, now 14th on the Road to Oman, his confidence is high.
“It all seems quite easy right now!” said the 25 year old. “It was a funny day today because I didn’t really play that well, but the putter is still very hot so I’m just going to keep rolling the rock.
“I feel like I need to hit the ball better than I did today, I got some lucky bounces, but it feels great – the confidence is up there and I can only see good shots at the moment.
“Even before the win, I took a lot of confidence into last week, and it’s just been a boost and a boost and a boost for the last few weeks and I’m flying with the clouds right now – it feels great, golf is really fun right now.
“I feel a bit tired, there’s no doubt about that, but I’ll have two weeks off after Kazakhstan, and the mental game is strong right now even if the body is exhausted.
“It is a bit of a battle out here with the conditions. I’m not a long hitter so it’s playing super long for me and the greens are very sloping, it’s windy and rainy, so there are a lot of factors that make it tougher.
“I feel like my caddie and I had a great strategy today, avoiding the thick stuff, but it’s a great confidence to have when you know you’re putting well because you know you don’t have to hit every shot that perfect, and I’m just going to keep trying to have fun with it.”
Italy’s Vecchi Fossa is the nearest challenger, with a pair of Scots, Grant Forrest and David Law, sharing third spot on two under par with Englishman Charlie Ford and Darius van Driel of the Netherlands.
David Carey heads the Irish charge on level par – an extraordinary round that began with a triple bogey and featured six birdies and an eagle – alongside Declan Loftus after an opening 72.
Two shots back are local hero Gavin Moynihan and Conor O’Rourke, who only left amateur ranks this week and was pleased with his opening round as a professional.
“It was difficult today,” said the 26 year old. “I enjoyed it but it was tough conditions, pretty blustery, similar to last year actually when I played as an amateur, but it was a bit of a struggle, not easy, but I enjoyed it.
“It’s very nice to be able to stay at home as well, any time you can sleep in your own bed is a bonus as it doesn’t happen very often, so I’m enjoying the week.
“I’m just trying to do my best, go about my business and see how it goes tomorrow. All I can do is give it my best and see where that leaves me going into the weekend.”