In-form Dane Joachim B Hansen scorched home in 31 strokes to grab the lead on the opening day of the ALLIANZ Golf Open Toulouse Metropole.
Hansen is currently in a rich vein of form, having finished inside the top 20 in each his last four appearances – a run which included two fourth places.
As a result of his recent exertions, Hansen is currently sitting pretty in 12th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings, but is desperate to climb into the top ten in order to secure more starts on The European Tour next term.
And the 22 year old did his prospects of achieving his aim no harm whatsoever with a superb eight under par round of 63 at Golf de Toulouse-Seilh, in south-west France.
He said: “I was hitting it close and putted really well, so that’s always a pretty good combination. I holed almost everything I looked at, which doesn’t happen often so you have to enjoy it when it does. I holed some very good putts on the sixth for par and the ninth for birdie, which was a very nice way to finish a great round.
“My confidence is obviously very high after my results recently, so I just hope I can keep my form going for the rest of the season. The aim at the start of the season was to finish inside the top 20 of the Rankings, but now that I’m in 12th I really want to push into the top ten. If I can have a really good week here, it will take some of the pressure off so I can relax and enjoy the rest of the season.”
Hansen’s playing partner, Daniel Vancsik, is in a five strong group of players sharing second place on six under par.
The Argentine has risen to 16th place in the Rankings on the back of some highly encouraging recent results, and he continued his fine form with a round of 65 which included seven birdies and an eagle three at the 11th hole.
Earlier in the day, Alexandre Kaleka had delighted the locals by notching five birdies and an eagle in a round of 65.
After following up his win in Russia with a top ten finish in Kazakhstan last week, the two-time Challenge Tour champion is within striking distance of Rankings leader Gary Lockerbie of England; and a second victory at Golf de Toulouse-Seilh – where he won the French Boys Championship in 2006 – could seal a rise to the summit.
Whilst Kaleka is not necessarily targeting the top of the Rankings, he admits it would be the perfect way to seal a swift return to The European Tour, having lost his playing privileges last season.
He said: “I’ve played well all season really, but of course getting the win in Russia has taken my confidence up another level. Winning the Rankings would obviously make it a very special year but my main focus is to try to win tournaments, and if I can win another one before the end of the season, that would give me a great chance.”
Simon Wakefield, currently sixth in the Rankings, got his round off to the perfect start when he holed his approach to the first hole to record an opening eagle.
The Englishman subsequently added four birdies to sign for an error-free 65 which went some way towards compensating for his missed cut in Kazakhstan.
Wakefield said: “I didn’t play that badly in Kazakhstan, just made a few silly mistakes which cost me. I’ve played there twice now and missed the cut both times, so I struggle to visualise the shots on that course – whereas out here I can see every shot and managed to execute most of them. I hit it as well as I’ve hit it all year today, and got my rewards. The course is in great shape, and I really enjoyed it.”
Unlike Kaleka and Wakefield, who have both already guaranteed their European Tour cards for next season, Delpodio is in dire need of a big week if he is to gatecrash the top 20 of the Rankings.
The Italian is currently in 85th place, but feels he is finding his form at just the right time after notching six birdies in a flawless display.
He said: “I’ve been playing well for the past few months, I just seem to undo my hard work with one bad round every week. I’m feeling quite confident about my game, I just need one good week then hopefully everything will fall into place and life will become much easier. It’s always tough to make the breakthrough, but I’ve got off to a great start and I hope I can keep it going.”
South African Justin Walters made it a five way tie for second place after posting seven birdies and a solitary bogey.
He said: “I finally saw some putts drop today, which made a very nice change because that hasn’t happened for a while. I missed out last week because my putter went cold, but hopefully if I can keep finding the cup this week, I can climb back into the top 20.”