While one player starting his debut season on The European Tour produced a flying finish to jump into a share of the Nelson Mandela Championship lead with 18 holes to play, five of Morten Orum Madsen’s fellow rookies also made promising starts on the top tier of European golf.
England’s Chris Lloyd bagged a share of third after a superb bogey-free, four under par 61, not much more than a week after he birdied three of the last four holes at the Qualifying School Final Stage to capture his European Tour card for 2013.
Lloyd made three birdies on his front nine to turn in 31 before a solid, if slightly less spectacular, back nine that just saw the one birdie on the par four 17th.
Max Kieffer, who graduated in 13th place from the 2012 Challenge Tour Rankings, is becoming somewhat of an early-season specialist. The German won the first event of the Challenge Tour season in January this year at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in India, and he has given himself chance of a similarly auspicious start to his European Tour career with a three under par 62.
The highlight of Kieffer’s round came at the short, par four second when the Düsseldorf man hit a three wood to 12 feet which he duly made for eagle and a share of fifth place heading into the final round.
After gaining the 14th card at Qualifying School in northern Spain last week, Sweden’s Bjorn Akesson finished two under par for the day as despite two bogeys in his final three holes.
Akesson had earlier made consecutive tap-in birdies at the eighth and ninth holes after two pin-point approaches with his lob wedge.
Espen Kofstad, who first thing on Saturday morning launched The 2013 Race to Dubai with his opening drive, started well with three birdies and a bogey over his front nine with only a double bogey after hitting it out of bounds on the 12th marking an otherwise steady back nine that saw the 2012 Challenge Tour Number One sign for a one under par 64.
It was a day of double firsts for Germany’s Moritz Lampert, as the 20 year old is not only making his European Tour debut but also his professional debut at the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban.
Lampert, who seized the sixth card at Qualifying School last week in his final event as an amateur, came flying out of the blocks with back-to-back birdies after starting on the tenth at Royal Durban before eventually finishing the day level par after bogeys at the 13th, 18th and fifth holes.
What they said:
Chris Lloyd (-4, 61) – tied for third
“It was very enjoyable – although a bit strange starting on a Saturday! I’m one back with one round to go so anything can happen with just 18 holes to go so I’m very satisfied.
“The last few days have been quite lucky. Fortunately, I’ve been off late so I’ve known the days have been cancelled so I’ve taken a couple of days off to rest and catch up after last week because I really needed it and today I felt nice and refreshed so I’m just rolling on from last week.
“I’ve never felt pressure like that at Q-School, so this week in comparison has almost felt quite relaxing which is quite strange for my first event as a European Tour player.”
Max Kieffer (-3, 62) – tied for fifth
“It’s not been a normal tournament with the weather but once we got out there it was a lot of fun. Playing with James (Morrison) who is a great player and a great guy so all in all it was a great day!
“Three under is a good score around here. It was windy out there and the rough is thick so anything under par was good. I’ll just take tomorrow shot by shot and see what happens.”
Bjorn Akesson (-2, 63) – tied for 15th
“There were a few nerves early on but generally I felt pretty calm. I don’t think the course is easier now with the shortness; there’s a lot of par threes and they’re not normally the holes you score at, you look for the par fives normally so in that sense I’m very happy and I’ll look forward to tomorrow.”
Espen Kofstad (-1, 64) – tied for 31st
“We were talking about (the opening tee shot) last night and we realised there was the tree on the left so I couldn’t hit a fade off the tee, but it came off perfect in the end.
“It was a lot of fun, though, I was a little bit nervous but I think it’s fun to feel like you’re alive sometimes.”
Moritz Lampert (L, 65) – tied for 47th
“We knew it was likely that we would finally get to play this morning and I have been looking forward to it all week so to get out there was great.
“It doesn’t actually feel that different which is a bit surprising. It’s just like playing golf!”