Having taken 478 European Tour events to win his first title, England’s Richard Bland put himself in contention for back-to-back victories at the Made In HimmerLand presented by FREJA.
The 48-year-old became the European Tour’s oldest first-time winner at The Belfry a fortnight ago and a five under par 66 left him in a share of the lead after the opening round in Denmark.
Bland had an eagle on the par five eighth as well as four birdies and a single bogey to join defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, Korean Yikeun Chang, Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal and Finland’s Lauri Ruuska at the top of the leaderboard.
“I was just happy to get back out playing to be honest,” said Bland. “I hadn’t really done a lot last week, I played once with some friends and did a little bit of practice.
“I was coming in a little bit unprepared, but sometimes that’s not always a bad thing. I just tried to carry on where I left off and managed to do that.”
Austrian Wiesberger moved into contention with a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth before eagling the eighth.
The 35-year-old, defending the title he won in 2019 after last year’s event was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, then had bogeys at the ninth and 13th but finished with back-to-back gains, including a 30 footer on the last.
“I like it around here,” he said. “It was a good day, a steady start but a lot of scoring in – like in the last five or six competitive rounds.
“It was nice to get a couple of early birdies – putts dropped and a bonus on the eighth. It turned to the tricky part of the golf course, I dropped a couple of shots there but stayed with it and was rewarded on the last two greens with some birdies. Quite a solid day and I’m very happy with the start.”
Ruuska’s round included a hole-in-one at the par-three 16th. The Finn usually plies his trade in the Nordic Golf League but was delighted to make the most of his National Spot exemption.
“It’s ten years since I came to a European Tour event for the first time as a spectator and ten years since I last had a hole-in-one,” he said.
“A 50-degree wedge, 98 metres to the pin and it span back and went straight in the hole. It was a pretty awesome feeling. My first European Tour round, so it’s pretty nice.”
Larrazábal was the only one of the leading quintet to complete a bogey-free round.
“I just turned 38 and these guys are 20-21, hitting 50 yards longer than me,” said Spaniard Larrazábal. “In conditions like these, in tricky conditions, everything levels out.
“It’s all about grinding out there and hitting shots and knowing how to move the ball from right to left, left to right, low, high. It’s not a bomber’s course - this is a European Tour golf course.”