Richard Bland (Getty Images)
Richard Bland shot a brilliant five under par 67 on the first morning of the Nordea Masters to establish a one shot clubhouse lead.
The Englishman, who only retained his European Tour playing privileges for this season via a trip to the Qualifying School, recovered from a bogey at his first hole, the tenth, and a double bogey seven at the 13th with eight birdies at Bro Hof Slott.
Two of those came in the holes between his blemishes, with four birdies in a row from the 16th and further gains at the third and sixth helping Bland establish a one stroke lead over Michael Jonzon and Carlos Del Moral.
“To shoot five under round this course at anytime is good,” said Bland, who is looking for a maiden European Tour win in what his 275th event.
“I had a bit of an up and down start but I kicked it into gear around the turn which made the day really. I played the front nine, which was my back nine, pretty solidly, so the game’s in pretty good shape.”
Jonzon, 40, whose two European Tour titles came 12 years apart, has not had a top-40 season all season.
But playing on home soil, the Swede rattled off three birdies in four holes from the 12th, and after bogeying the 18th carded further gains at the second and fourth.
Spaniard Del Moral, who kept his card by only €12,000 last season, had six birdies and two bogeys in his 68 to share second place in the clubhouse.
His compatriot Sergio Garcia mixed six birdies and three bogeys in his 69, the same score as Ballantine’s championship winner Bernd Wiesberger, as they took a share of fourth in the clubhouse.
Chile’s Felipe Aguilar was also three under with three to play, while another home favourite – Pelle Edberg – raced out the blocks to reach three under after five.
For much of the morning it looked like Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey was going to be the man to catch after he turned in a four under par 32.
But the four-time European Tour winner found sand off the tee at the sixth and needed two shots to get out – his first attempt catching the lip of the bunker.
That led to a bogey and another dropped shot two holes later gave Hoey a 70.
As the afternoon session unfolded the leaderboard was awash with blue and yellow.
Magnus A Carlsson had six birdies in his first 11 holes to lead the way, while Peter Hanson was level with Bland with three holes to play.
Jonzon and Del Moral were joined on four under by Argentine Emiliano Grillo, English pair Matthew Baldwin and Daniel Denison and another Swede, Robin Wingardh.
World Number Three Lee Westwood was also going well, the Englishman reaching three under with three to play.