Daniel Gaunt and Bjorn Åkesson both carded five under par rounds of 66 to share the clubhouse lead midway through the opening day if the ALLIANZ Open de Lyon at Golf de Gouverneur.Both players are in need of good finishes to the season for differing reasons and a win at the fourth-last tournament of the Challenge Tour season could be huge if they are to reach their respective goals.
Gaunt, who lies in 108th place in the Rankings, is in danger of losing his Challenge Tour card for the 2013 season but the Australian feels his game is coming good at a crucial time.
The 2010 English Challenge winner started with a good up and down for par on the tenth hole, his first, before a superb 30-foot putt earned him a birdie at the par five 15th.Two consecutive bogeys followed but he bounced back with a birdie at the 18th before gaining four shots on the back nine, including a run of three successive birdies from the sixth hole, to storm into the early lead.
“It was so much better than the past 12 months out there,” said Gaunt. “I'm starting to hole some putts and the short it game is coming along nicely.“I just putted well today. The greens are awesome out there so once you get it on the right line and get the pace of it, it’s going to go in. It’s good to stand over a putt knowing that you can hole it again.
“I thought I had missed a 25 footer on the seventh hole but it went straight in the middle for birdie and those are the things that are changing for me. The ones I think are missing are going in.“The last three or four months, they just haven’t been going close so it’s good. I need a good few weeks to just keep my Challenge Tour card but that’s not what I'm thinking about. I'm still thinking about winning tournaments because that’s what I'm here for.”
Åkesson soon followed Gaunt into the clubhouse lead after a roller-coaster round which included nine birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey.Currently in 35th place in the Rankings, the Swede hopes that a strong end to the season can put him into contention for a European Tour card by the time the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final comes around in three weeks’ time.
“The front nine was really up and down,” said the 23 year old. “I started the back nine with four straight birdies. I just putted really well there, made a bad bogey at the sixth but had two birdies and finished with an up and down for par.
“It was all bogeys and birdies! But it was nice to feel that the putter was working again. I made my birdies with the putter, although they weren’t very long putts. From one to five metres, I putted really well.“I need to have some good finishes to climb the Rankings now. My game is getting better and better, I'm coming back from an injury and I'm feeling better. If my putter is this good anything is possible.”