Lee Slattery, Pelle Edberg, Magnus Carlsson and Raymond Russell shared the first round lead in the Rolex Trophy after sparkling with seven under par 65s at the Golf Club de Genève in Switzerland.
The quartet lead Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, home hope Julien Clément and David Vanegas by one shot after a day of low scoring, with three players – Charlie Ford, Alexandre Kaleka and Marius Thorp - another shot back at five under.
All four leading players had strong back nines, particularly Slattery who, having reached the turn three under, had four consecutive birdies from the 13th to propel up the leaderboard. The Englishman admitted he was feeling refreshed and re-energised after a holiday last week.
“I started slowly and missed a short putt on the first for birdie and another one at the second for par,” said Slattery, who is chasing his second Challenge Tour win of the season following his victory in the Telenet Trophy. “I was starting to think it was not going to be my day but, as with a lot of rounds, you start badly and progressively got much better.
“Towards the end I felt like I could have kept going all day. It was great. I think the key to this week is having a week off last week. I went on holiday to Croatia and came back feeling like a different person, like I was ready to play again. I put in a few days of hard work before this tournament and it’s starting to feel good again.
“It feels like a long time ago that I won in Belgium even though it’s only a couple of months. I’m like most golfers in that we’re never happy and even when you win a tournament you’re trying to change things and improve.”
Swedes Edberg and Carlsson both birdied the par four 18th to grab a share of the lead, and the latter attributed his fine score to a good day on the greens.
“I putted fantastically,” said Carlsson. “Sixty-five is a great start to the week. I had some good birdies and some nice par saves so all in all I’m very happy.”
Edberg added: “It was pretty good, very solid. I think I hit all the fairways and all the greens and made a few putts.
“If you keep hitting the ball close, sooner or later you’ll hole the putts. It’s my first time here and I’m enjoying it – I like the course. Obviously it’s a pretty easy course but you still have to make the putts. But if you play decent you have opportunities here.”
Manassero, 17, was delighted to be in contention early on and welcomed the change in format this week. In the first round, each professional played with a junior golfer, and for the other three rounds, the groups comprise a professional and three amateurs.
“I started quite badly but things got a lot better and I was very happy with that score,” said Manassero. “I played very well from tee to green. It was nice and relaxed and I liked playing with the juniors. I think they enjoyed it a lot too, which is very good.”
Current Challenge Tour Rankings leader Robert Dinwiddie, the 2007 Rolex Trophy champion, birdied the 18th for a four under par 68.
“It’s the kind of course where you can get a score going if you’re accurate off the tee,” said Dinwiddie. “There are still some tough holes out there and luckily I managed to avoid any disasters. I’ve got great memories of winning here in 2007 and it would be great to do it again. There’s a long way to go yet but this is a good start.”