James Kingston (Getty Images)
A brilliant run of seven birdies in eight holes helped James Kingston claim the clubhouse lead midway through the first round of the Portugal Masters.
The 45 year old South African opened with an eight under par 64 at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course to lead by one from in-form Dane Thomas Björn, Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Kingston is currently 67th in The Race to Dubai and can cement his place in the field for the season-ending Dubai World Championship with a good display on the Algarve.
And the World Number 166 was pleased with his approach play after the frustration of having missed the last two cuts by one shot.
“It was a really nice round of golf,” said Kingston. “I played really steadily, gave myself so many chances, and it was enjoyable.
“I put the ball in play most of the day, gave myself some really good approach shots into the greens and hit some really good pitch shots.”
After a birdie at the fourth Kingston really came to life around the turn, the two-time European Tour winner birdieing five in a row from the eighth and carding further gains on the 14th and 15th.
And a bogey at the 16th was followed by a 20 foot birdie on the final hole.
“I felt I could have done a little better earlier in the round, then all of a sudden I made one or two and my tail got in the air,” he added.
“I hit some really good iron shots pretty close - five in a row which is nice and then another few coming in.”
Björn turned in a brilliant 31 highlighted by a ten foot birdie putt at the 17th and picked up further shots at the second and third as he seeks a fourth win of the season.
“I played nicely early on and rolled in a few good putts,” he said. “It got a bit scruffy towards the end.”
Maybin chipped in at the 17th for one of eight birdies and the 31 year old is hoping to draw inspiration from the success of his compatriots.
Michael Hoey became the latest Ulsterman to enter the winner’s circle at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship two weeks ago, following the Major victories of Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke in the last 18 months.
“Obviously there’s a boom at the minute especially with Michael getting a great win at the Dunhill,” said Maybin, who at 110th on The Race to Dubai still has work to do to secure his card for next season.
“Someone tells me it’s the Guinness, but it’s a good crop of players and they’re shining at the minute.”