Germany’s Kariem Baraka moved into top gear to take the lead at the dual ranking BMW Russian Open with a brilliant opening round 63 at Le Meridien Moscow Country Club – taking a two shot lead from last year’s runner-up, Martin Wiegele of Austria.
The 26 year old began his first round from the tenth tee and set out his intentions with four consecutive birdies, giving him the incentive to put together the best round of the day – a flawless nine under par 63 that left him two clear of Wiegele and four strokes ahead of English duo of Mathew Cort and Mathew King, Scotsman Euan Little and Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg on five under.
Baraka played beautifully throughout his bogey free round, holing from 15 feet on the tenth to start with a birdie and then sinking three 15 foot birdie putts to get to four under after four holes.
“That really got me going,” he said. “I still had three par fives left where I could reach the green in two and I managed to birdie all three of those. Everything felt great today. I just played really, really well it’s as simple as that. I had a couple of bad shots, well not bad shots but shots that didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. But of course I am happy with my start but there is a long way to go.
“It is the same every week – the tournament finishes on Sunday after 72 holes, not after 18 or 36 or 54, it’s just one great round that I have had today but it is over. I just have to try and keep going the way I did today.
“I am working on my consistency a lot more and I think that is improving. It’s nice to be playing well though – as it is at any time of the season, you just need to have a little bit of luck to play well on the right week and I just hope that this is my week.
“I can always shoot good rounds but the bad rounds have to get better. Instead of shooting 76 on a bad day then you should be shooting 71 or 72. We see guys like Tiger and Ernie shooting 63 and 64 but they rarely shoot 59 and 60. The difference is that when they have a bad day they put up a score like 70 or 71 and that is what I hope to achieve.”
For Wiegele, a return to Russia has signalled a return to the form that brought him within a sudden-death play-off of winning this event last season. His second place finish in 2003 was the foundation for Wiegle’s eventual fifth place on the Challenge Tour Rankings, which promoted him to The European Tour.
He may have lost out to Australia’s Marcus Fraser at the second extra hole 12 months ago, but that did not stop the 26 year old recalling his four sub 70 rounds that handed him a 19 under par total at Le Meridien Country Club last season.
“I have played five rounds here now and all have been below 70 and even when I played the practice round on Tuesday all the memories of last year came back to me,” said Wiegele, whose eventful 65 included an eagle, eight birdies, a bogey and a double bogey.
“I remembered many of the shots I played and the good thoughts that I had last year. Today I started ok. I made some changes in my swing over the last two weeks and last week at the KLM Open in Holland I opened the tournament with a 65 which was five under par but then I went back into my old swing a bit. But I think that it is becoming more automatic with every round and I hope that I can maintain my new swing for the rest of the week.
“I think Marcus and I played some great golf last season – each as good as the other and when it comes down to a play-off situation there is a bit of luck involved. I love this course as well and the way that you have to play it.
“The results have obviously not been as good as I would have liked, but I was not happy with my swing and I have changed it a lot since joining the main Tour. I think I let that affect me because I had too many thoughts going on in my head. Now I am playing more naturally and I think that is the main reason why I am playing better.”
With 11 players on four under par, and a further 22 on three under, this year’s BMW Russian Open looks set to be one of the lowest scoring, and highest quality, in the nine year history of the event.