Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen produced a wonderful, course record equalling performance during round one of Telecom Italia Open to establish a two stroke lead over his closest challenger, Englishman Benn Barham. The 30 year old Dane put on a flawless display of nine birdies and nine pars to post an opening 63 at Castillo de Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club as he bids to turn his outstanding form into outstanding results on The 2006 European Tour International Schedule.
Kjeldsen has been playing well for a number of weeks now but, by his own admission, has not been able to maintain an optimum level of performance on the days when it matters most – during his final rounds.
The Dane has “been getting into the habit of getting too intense on a Sunday” but hopes that by recognising that fact he can remain relaxed throughout the remaining three rounds in Milan.
He was certainly among the coolest customers on the course during the first round and put on an exemplary show of wedge play en route to his 63, with four of his nine birdies coming as the result of his skill with the short irons.
“The course was playing quite short but the main thing is that the greens are playing so well and it’s possible to make a lot of putts,” said Kjeldsen.
“They are not that hilly either and are just very pure. The rough isn’t up as much as it was last year which makes it a bit easier as well but the conditions were just perfect today.
“I have been playing well but have just had bad Sundays really. I think nine out of 11 events I have been around the top ten or 15 before the last round so I just haven’t really finished the job but I have been playing nicely.
“I feel I have been doing the right things but I have getting into the habit of getting too intense on a Sunday. I feel I have been playing well enough and I want to see the results. It’s just a case of trying to stay more relaxed like I was today.”
Barham, with the help of sports psychologist John Pates, also managed to play it cool to emerge from a congested chasing pack and into second spot. The 30 year old Englishman graduated the European Challenge Tour last season and is looking to continue his positive climb up the ranks.
“John works with some good players and I figured that I wasn’t playing that great and I wanted to change something. I have worked with John before – when I had my card the last time towards the end of 2003 – and I thought I would go and see him again. He is good at what he does.
“Technically I have been happy with my game for a while. I played great on the Challenge Tour last season and this year I have forgotten about getting it round the course and making a score. John has reminded of the fact that’s what you need to do to win tournaments.”
Among the seven players on six under par after opening rounds of 66 is 2001 Telecom Italia Open champion Gregory Havret of France, while Welshman Bradley Dredge – a WGC – Algarve World Cup in Portugal winner last year – is among the 11 men tied on five under par.