Javier Sainz and Euan Walker made the perfect start in their quest for a DP World Tour card by each posting four under par rounds of 68 on day one of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A.
The duo lead by one after both carding four under par back nines at Club de Golf Alcanada as they look to climb into the top 20 on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and secure DP World Tour playing rights for 2023.
Both men earned their maiden European Challenge Tour titles in 2022, with Sainz, the Road to Mallorca Number 36, claiming the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge supported by The R&A title in May, while Scotsman Walker, currently ranked 21st, won the British Challenge presented by Modest! Golf Management last month.
“I did some good work with my caddie,” Sainz said. “I missed two shots today and was always on the right side of the course. This is the key when you play this course with how the course is prepared.
“We had two weeks off and I think it was good for me to rest before playing the Grand Final. I did some good work last week and that came through today. I need to be patient and see what the rest of the week brings.
“I three-putted once on the front nine, on eight, then on the back nine the key was the putting. I don’t think I will look at the Rankings until the last day, maybe. I just want to keep playing shots to the number and we’ll see on Sunday what I can do.”
Should either player win this week they would be guaranteed a spot in the top 20, however they have a host of players chasing them down.
“It’s about as well as I could have hoped for really, I hit the ball really nicely and I had a few breaks go my way so I can’t hope for anything better than that,” Walker said.
“I was in position all the way round. A couple of tee shots I hit in the semi-rough but I’ve been more or less in a really good position off the tee, given myself an opportunity to hit a good approach shot.
“The greens are really firm, it’s very difficult to hit it close or leave yourself with a putt that’s makeable. If you’re out of position and get it above the hole, it’s frightening out there. The greens are really firm and really slick.”
Alexander Knappe, the current Road to Mallorca Number Three, is in a share of third place after round one, with England’s Todd Clements and Frenchman Jeong weon Ko joining him on three under par.
A group of seven players, including Rankings leader Jeremy Freiburghaus are in a share of sixth place on two under par. Should the leaderboard remain as it is, the 26-year-old is projected to become the Challenge Tour’s first Swiss Number One.
The weather is expected to turn on Friday with strong winds forecasted to arrive in Mallorca, resulting in an implementation of an early two-tee start.
The second round of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final will now begin at 8:13am local time, with the leading duo and Frenchman Ko comprising the final group at 9:30am.