Englishman Ben Parker finished with four consecutive birdies for a seven under par 64 in the first round of the Swiss Challenge to share top spot with Welshman Stuart Manley and Frenchman Julien Guerrier.
The trio lead by one shot from Italian Andrea Pavan, who won in Austria a fortnight ago, and it was a welcome change in fortunes for Parker, who has won just €5,000 from ten appearances so far this season.
An improvement on the greens was main reason behind Parker’s low score at the picturesque Golf Sempachersee near Lucerne, and the 25 year old said: “I’ve been playing really well recently, but I haven’t holed anything. Thankfully that changed today. I’ve missed so many cuts even though I’ve been playing well, which has been frustrating.
“My long game was great today – I think I only missed one green. I holed a few good putts early on, but missed a couple of six-footers for birdie. Then I two-putted the 17thfor birdie, and on the last I holed a 20-footer with a huge left to right swing, so it was a great way to finish.”
Manley was tied second here three years ago with four rounds in the 60s for a 21 under par total, and four birdies in his last five holes today meant he went one better than his lowest effort in 2010. The 34 year old also attributed his fine start to a hot putter.
“I putted great,” said the Aberdare man, who has had two top ten finishes this season to lie 30th in the Rankings. “I didn’t play well at the start – it was early and it was all a bit scruffy – but I made some great up-and-downs to keep the momentum going, and I holed some excellent putts on the back nine.
“It’s a lovely course. The set-up this year is fantastic. The way they’ve got the rough on the edges of fairways and greens is just what we want. We want it like this every week because it helps prepare us for European Tour courses, and that’s what we’re all striving for. Hats off to the greenkeepers here, they’ve done a great job.”
Manley is feeling the benefits of a new physique, honed from spending the last year working hard in the gym.
“I’ve lost a couple of stone in the last 12 months,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get in better shape. I’ve been in the local gym – Breeze’s – and there’s a woman there who’s a Commonwealth gold medallist in powerlifting. She’s won medals everywhere and has been great with helping me.”
Guerrier has made a promising return from injury in 2013, notching two top ten finishes from eight appearances following a long spell out of the game.
“I played perfectly and holed some long putts, which you usually need to do for a 64,” said the 28 year old. “I hit some really good approach shots pretty close. I really got it going around the turn – I birdied the 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th – which gave me a lot of confidence on the front nine, my back nine.”