Friday, 19 March 2010

Joakim Bäckström, David Carter, Fredrik Henge and Roope Kakko will go into the second round of the Inteco Russian Open Golf Championship in a four-way tie for the lead on seven under par after the quartet combined to produce 30 birdies and one albatross on Thursday.

Bäckström carved the most spectacular course to the score of 65, sinking his second shot at the par five 15th with a four iron from 233 yards.

It added to birdies on the second, fourth, seventh, eight, 12th and 14th holes - he took bogeys at the fifth and 18th - to give the Swede the early clubhouse lead, but he was eventually joined by three of the afternoon starters.

Bäckström’s countryman Henge always looked a threat after he collected strokes on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th holes - like Bäckström, he started on the back nine - before he completed his bogey-free round with birdies on the second, fourth and sixth.

Carter was equally imperious, but took longer to find his stride. Having started on the tenth, the Englishman reached the turn in 34 before going on a run of five straight birdies from the first.

Finland's Kakko had a less straightforward run to 65. He dropped strokes at the sixth, 11th and 18th, but ten birdies in a thrilling round gave him a share of pole position.

Bäckström, who was relieved to see all the components of his game come together, was more surprised than anyone after he hit the shot of the day. He said: “It was slightly into the breeze from the right so it thought that a hard four iron would do it.

“I hit it well and it pitched on the green and then disappeared, but because there were people sitting around the green and they didn’t really react. They gave me a clap, but not the kind of reaction that you would expect for an albatross so I wasn’t sure what happened. But when I walked up to the green and it was there in the hole. Thank you very much!”

Henge has recently recovered from the slipped disk he incurred while go-karting, but he showed no signs of rustiness in his round. He was pleased to recover from what he deemed a shaky start, saying: “I actually missed a few tees shots on the first six holes but managed to make birdies from where I was and after that it was great. I just missed one green today and made a lot of chances. The course is playing fantastically and the greens are just perfect.”

Carter was delighted to be back on The European Tour after a brief absence. He explained: “I lost my card last year and having to get my head around playing the European Challenge Tour after 13 years on the main Tour was not easy.

“But it can take just one week, one round and a little bit of confidence and you are off and running. I just had a lot of fun out there today – I didn’t even realise that I had made five birdies in a row until I looked at my scorecard at the end of the round.”

Kakko is hoping to go the distance. He said: “I have always been good at sprints – it’s the marathon that is the problem. I have had some great single rounds but you have to do it over four rounds.

“I was saying to my brother earlier that it’s such a great game because you have to keep the concentration and focus that I had during my great round today for 72 holes, not just 18. That is what I am still trying to figure out how to do that – that is what all the great champions do.”

Should Kakko succeed, he believes it will be because of some unorthodox preparation. He added: “Iron Maiden were playing in Helsinki last Friday and I got to play golf with one of the guys who played in the warm-up band, who were called Avenged Seven Fold. He was a really nice guy and serious about his golf. He just started playing six months ago and he got us backstage and we had an amazing night – that’s another thing that helped me today – I was inspired by hard rock!”

South Africa’s Darren Fichardt is fifth after compiling a round of 66 to sit just one shot off the lead.

Fichardt started strongly, picking up strokes on the first, second and third holes, before birdies at the fifth and seventh took him to the turn in 31. A bogey at the tenth slowed his momentum, but he gained a stroke at the 15th and then shot a four at 17 to ensure he birdied all four of the par five holes on the course.

He said: “I felt good on the range this morning and I got off to a great start with a birdie on the first. Then I birdied the next from the bunker and then birdied the third hole and at that stage I didn’t think I was going to make a par. It started to slow down a bit after the seventh and I made a poor bogey on the tenth but picked up another two shots after that.”

Ten players are tied for a share of sixth place, while defending champion Per-Ulrik Johansson is tied for 30th on three under par.

Elsewhere, John Daly battled the pain of an injured hand to shoot two under par. He said: “It’s a great tournament and it’s great to see Russia getting into golf. The golf course here is wonderful and the players are treated really well here. The scoring is going to be low because the course is in such good shape.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LUNDBERG, MikaelSWE18-21
2LARA, José ManuelESP18-19
3BARHAM, BennENG18-18
4LARSEN, Jan-AreNOR18-17
5DRYSDALE, DavidSCO18-16
T6MOUL, JamieENG18-15
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