Brilliant Johansen sets clubhouse target

6/10/2010 1:23:19 PM
Eirik Tage Johansen  (Getty Images)
Eirik Tage Johansen (Getty Images)

Eirik Tage Johansen produced a stunning back nine to lead the Estoril Open de Portugal midway through the first round on seven under par.

The Norwegian, who has yet to record a top ten finish on The European Tour, produced a sublime round of 65 in windy conditions at Penha Longa Golf Club on the Estoril coast of Portugal.

The 28 year old, who has three times graduated from The European Tour Qualifying School, recorded two birdies to reach the turn in 34.

But it was on the back nine that he turned on the style, picking up shots on four consecutive holes from the 11th, adding another at the 16th, then responding to a bogey at the penultimate hole by pitching to three foot on the par five 18th for a sixth gain in eight holes.

"It was really good fun - I enjoyed it," said Johansen. "I was hitting it pretty close on the front nine, then on the back nine I started making some longer putts. So all in all, it was a pretty good day.

"The wind was swirling out there, particularly on some of the more exposed holes. But it's a well-designed course, and it's in great condition.

"The game feels pretty easy at the moment. So I'm just hoping the feeling lasts for the next three days. If it does, I think we're going to have a lot more fun out there. The key to good golf is enjoying it, and I certainly enjoyed myself today."

England's Richard Bland was one behind after a 66, despite admitting to the conditions being difficult.

"It swirls around a lot, so you've just got to go with what you feel at the time of the shot, and hope it's the right decision," he said, referring to the strong breezes which brought a heavy shower towards the end of his round.

Bland, looking for a first European Tour win in his eighth full season among the ranks, mixed seven birdies with a single dropped shot at the difficult par three fifth.

"It was stress-free golf really, which doesn't happen very often. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, and more often than not managed to take my chances with some nice putts. You don't get many stress-free days, but that was about as good as it gets," he added.

Henrik Nyström of Sweden returned to form after four missed cuts in his last five starts by birdieing his first three holes en route to a 67 that left him third in the clubhouse, along with Australian Richard Green, Welshman Bradley Dredge and Danish pair Thomas Björn and Mark F Haastrup.

Left-hander Green, a former Dubai Desert Classic winner, pitched to two feet for birdie at the second - his 11th - then followed that up with a lengthy birdie putt on the fifth, although he then three-putted the par five sixth having reached the green in two.

On the course England's John Parry eagled the 12th - his third - to be four under through six.