Tobias Dier wrote himself into the history books at Hilversumsche Golf Club, a thrilling ten under par 60 giving him the lead in the first round of The TNT Open by five shots, a new course record at the Dutch venue, and a realistic belief that he can go on and win his second title on The European Tour International Schedule.
The 25 year old German won for the first time last season at the North West of Ireland Open carding two 66s in the process. But neither round came close to the fireworks he exhibited in Holland, his ten birdie blitz seeing him become only the tenth player in the history of The European Tour to attain the magical 60 mark.
The magnificent effort put the former German amateur champion five shots clear of England’s David Gilford, Ireland’s Ronan Rafferty, Scotland's Raymond Russell, and home Dutch favourite Chris Van der Velde, and it also put him on cloud nine.
“I don’t think I am on earth at the moment, I think I am still in orbit,” said Dier moments after stepping off the 18th green. “I’ve shot 65 about three or four times but I’ve never been close to a score like this – it’s a number everybody dreams about.”
Incredibly, Dier did have a putt to become the first player ever on The European Tour to score 59, but his 40 foot eagle effort from the back of the 18th green came up four feet short. He had the consolation, however, of knocking the second putt home to finish in style.
“In the pro-am I actually had an albatross two on the 18th, holing my three wood. At the time I actually thought, ‘Why am I doing this now, why don’t I save it for the tournament?’ But then I go and shoot 60, so something has to be right with my game.
“I never really thought about a particular score or anything like that, I just made one birdie at a time. When I birdied the eighth to go to four under par I thought I was in good shape, but I was never thinking about 60.”
He might not have been then, but four birdies in a row from the 11th brought the reality a good deal closer, and although he missed chances at both the 15th and 16th, the magic returned at the 17th where he rolled in a birdie putt from 25 feet before two putting for another birdie at the last.
Dier’s efforts left everyone else in the shade, but there was still a good deal of interest in the five under par 65 posted by Dutchman Chris Van der Velde, which gave the 38 year old a share of second place.
Van der Velde, who held a Tour card in the 1990s and whose best finish was ninth in the 1992 Cannes Open, admitted to being a part-time Tour player now, the majority of his attention being divided between his full-time job of coaching the Dutch National Golf Team and his new hobby, rock climbing.
Indeed Van der Velde, whose mother is American and who was raised in Connecticut, revealed he was off on a rock climbing holiday next week in Oregon but for the next three days he admitted his mind would be solely focused on scaling greater heights on the leaderboard.
“I won the Tour School at San Roque in 1997 and every time I go into a tournament I go in with the attitude that I am going to win,” he said. “If I don’t think I can win, I shouldn’t be playing, that is my attitude and that is what I try and instil in the boys in the Dutch team.”
Certainly if they emulated Van der Velde’s delightful short game, the Dutch amateur team would be a hard outfit to defeat, exquisite touch around the putting surfaces helping him to six birdies in total, including a holed bunker shot from 25 feet at the ninth.
Another player who enjoyed good fortune around the greens was Ronan Rafferty, the 38 year old Ulsterman pitching in from 50 feet at the third for one of his six birdies in all in his opening 65. It made a mockery of his season’s statistics to date which have seen him miss the cut in nine of the ten tournaments he has teed up in.
“I actually hit the golf course today which has been my problem for the past couple of seasons, I have driven the ball very badly,” he said. “Over the past three months I have been trying to find a method that will get me on the golf course – it might not be the prettiest thing, but if I stand there and aim down the left and cut it, I can find the fairway.”
One player who has no difficulty in that respect is David Gilford, currently fourth in driving accuracy in the Reuters Performance Data, and who used that statistic again to its full potential in his 65 which brought him alongside Rafferty, Russell and Van der Velde.
“I like this course, it is a bit shorter than a lot of the courses we play on,” he said. “It is narrow, small fairways and small greens but I have always enjoyed playing here.”
Like Rafferty and Van der Velde, Gilford carded six birdies and one dropped shot, his shot of the day coming at the 393 yard eighth hole where his six iron approach ended a mere foot from the pin.
Late in the day, Russell joined the group in a tie for second place on 65, surviving two trips into the trees at the last before rolling in a 30 foot putt for a par five to preserve his flawless round.
Elsewhere, defending champion Bernhard Langer bogeyed the final hole to open with a one over par 71 while John Daly shrugged off the pain from his right hand, where he had a shard of glass removed on Saturday night, to come home in 31 for a level par 70.