Eagle-eyed Huldahl soars into Kazakhstan lead

19/09/2013 14:02:00
Jeppe Huldahl (Phil Inglis) ()
Jeppe Huldahl (Phil Inglis) ()
Jeppe Huldahl carded a spectacular course-record nine under par round of 63 to take a two shot lead after the opening day of the lucrative Kazakhstan Open at Nurtau Golf Club in Almaty.

The Dane fired three eagles and three birdies in a stunning round over a course which has been earmarked by many players present this week as one of the most difficult of the 2013 Challenge Tour season.

That certainly was not the case for former European Tour winner Huldahl, who has a tendency to go very low and carded an 11 under par 61 at the 2010 Portugal Masters, as he got off to a flying start, holing a chip at the tenth - his first - for an opening eagle.

The 2009 Wales Open champion then holed a long putt at the par five 13th for another three and another birdie took him to the turn in five under par. He picked up two more shots with consecutive birdies at the second and third before rolling in another ten-foot putt for eagle at the eighth to round off an incredible day.

“Obviously it was a great start with two eagles in the opening four holes,” said the. “I had a great up and down then at 14, straight after the second eagle, and that really kept it going.

“It was a tough bunker shot with a really tough pin and I holed an eight-footer for par. It was still early in the round but if you make bogey you never know what is coming next, so that was definitely key.

“To be honest I had a few great saves for par throughout the day so it wasn’t all as solid as it looks but you have to be really straight to not end up battling for pars so it was a good round.

“This course is definitely all about taking advantages of the par fives and I was seven under for the par fives today so that certainly helps. They’re not easy but if you get yourself in position you’ll definitely have plenty of chances.”

It has been an up-and-down year for the Copenhagen native, with a tied seventh finish at the lucrative Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open presented by Neuflize OBC and a top five at the Bad Griesbach Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort going a long way in lifting him to 42nd in the Challenge Tour Rankings.

It certainly has not escaped Huldahl that he needs at least one big result between now and the end of the season if he is to make a return to The European Tour, where he has played four full seasons with his best campaign coming in 2009, when he finished 64th in the inaugural Race to Dubai.

“I had a slow start to the season but I got it going for about a month,” he said. “I lost again though – it’s a funny old game really – but I felt better going into this week than I did last week in Ukraine. I had a good practice round on Tuesday here and I just kept that feeling going.

“It’s certainly a welcome week to do well in. Everyone in the list has something to do here, but it’s obviously a very big one for me. 

“I have waited for this week to come a little bit, where I can get a good result and make a big difference. I still have to play really well but I'm extremely happy with the start.”

Chan Kim, meanwhile, signed for an impressive seven under par round of 65 to finish the day in second spot and, coming off the back of a runner-up finish on the Asian Tour last week, the American believes momentum can help him to a big finish this week.

“Coming off that result last week, I just carried it on into this week,” said the 23 year old, who won his First Stage in The European Tour’s Qualifying School just under a year ago before going on to secure a Challenge Tour card.

“I just tried to stay patient and the greens are so pure here, if you read the putts right they will drop and I managed to do that. I birdied five in a row from the second hole so I got off to a great start but the whole round I played really solid really.

“It would be nice to play well and get into the last three events on the Challenge Tour a good week here would be nice. On the Asian Tour last week I needed a big week and I got it so I'm looking for the same magic here.”

Tim Sluiter was hoping to continue the recent run of Dutch success, with Joost Luiten and Daan Huizing winning on The European Tour and Challenge Tour respectively last week, as he finished the day three shots off the lead on six under par after a 66.