Peter Hedblom (Getty Images)
Sweden’s Peter Hedblom grabbed a share of the clubhouse lead midway through the opening round of the ISPS HANDA Perth International as he makes a last-ditch effort to retain his European Tour card.
The 43 year old has three European Tour titles to his name, but is currently 179th in The Race to Dubai with only the top 110 at the end of the week guaranteed their playing privileges next season.
That means Hedblom needs to win at Lake Karrinyup to avoid a return trip to Qualifying School, although having kept his card there last season the World Number 830 is trying not to let the tension take over.
Six birdies and two bogeys saw him card an opening 68 to sit level with Korea’s Jin Jeong, with US Ryder Cup star Dustin Johnson part of a seven-way tie for third on three under.
“I'm so far back I need a win or to finish second really,” said Hedblom, who missed seven of his first eight cuts this year.
“You have nothing to hold back; you just have to go for everything. You're not happy to finish third or fourth or fifth or sixth or tenth, just play as good as you can.
“The tension is nothing really. Today it felt like any tournament - if I will be leading playing the last day, then maybe I'll feel the tension, but right now it's just one round out of four. It's good to at least have a chance to do it.
“The game is there, you just need a little bit of confidence.”
Jeong chipped in at the 18th - his ninth - for an eagle two, while pre-tournament favourite Johnson was satisfied with his round of 69 that contained six birdies and three bogeys.
“I played pretty well,” said the seven-time US PGA Tour winner. “I missed a couple short putts, but other than that, I hit it pretty well.”
Defending champion Bo Van Pelt opened with a two under par 70.
Australia James Nitties made it a three-way tie for the lead midway through the afternoon session as he reached four under with six to play.
Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed, another player with his future on the line, was on three under through 12 holes.