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Thursday, 21 July 2011
Robert Karlsson  (Getty Images)
Robert Karlsson (Getty Images)
While it was no surprise to see the name of Robert Karlsson top of the Nordea Masters leaderboard, it was a 22 year old amateur rather than the former European Number One taking centre stage at Bro Hof Slott.

Although 41 year old former Ryder Cup star Karlsson opened with a respectable 69, it was his compatriot and namesake who took a share of the first round lead on home soil in Stockholm with a five under 67.

“That was a great start to the tournament, obviously,” said amateur Karlsson, playing only his second European Tour event. “Ever since I qualified on Monday, I’ve been trying to really enjoy this experience. It’s hard not to smile.”

Karlsson had four birdies on the way out to turn in 32, the highlight coming with an approach to six feet at the eighth.

He added further gains at the tenth and 13th, the latter with a pitch to five feet, and although a double bogey at the 17th threatened to spoil his day, he composed himself to respond with a closing birdie.

At five under Karlsson shared the lead with compatriot Alex Noren and South African Jaco Van Zyl.

Qualifying School graduate Van Zyl was second in Morocco earlier this year and six birdies - including a 30 foot putt at the eighth - with a solitary dropped shot put him in contention for a first win.

“It was good. Really tough conditions, very good golf course,” he said.

Noren birdied five of his first six holes after starting at the tenth and, although he had a slight slump after the turn, an approach to five feet at the fifth from the rough led to a run of three birdies over the closing stretch.

“It was great, the first few holes were unbelievable,” said Noren, who won his second European Tour title in Wales earlier this year. “It felt so much easier than it has ever felt, then it got really tough on the front nine.

“I was really nervous going into today - in front of all your family and friends and they want to see if you can play or if you’re out there because your lucky. It was really fun. It’s a great start and in this weather it was pretty tough.”

Another Swede, Niklas Lemke, was joined by England’s John Parry, Italian Lorenzo Gagli and Spaniard Alfredo Garcia-Heredia on four under, with pre-tournament favourite Karlsson one of eight players a shot further back.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-15
2FINCH, RichardENG18-8
3LEMKE, NiklasSWE18-5
T4HEND, ScottAUS18-4
T4MARTIN BENAVIDES, PabloESP18-4
T6JOHNSON, DustinUSA18-3

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