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Sami Välimäki shines with lowest ever round in Prague

Sami Välimäki shines with lowest ever round in Prague

Sami Välimäki produced a clinic for the fans as he carded a flawless 63 to surge into a two-shot lead following the first round of the D+D Real Czech Masters.

The Finn carded the lowest round to be signed at Albatross Golf Resort, but it did not go down in the record books due to preferred lies at the 12th hole, where he carded one of his nine birdies.

Despite not making the history books, Välimäki showcased his ability in all facets of his game with some brilliant ball-striking and clutch putting to keep his nose ahead of Denmark's Nicolai Højgaard, Japan's Ryo Hisatsune, German Maximilian Schmitt, Swede Alexander Björk and England's Todd Clements, who all sit at seven under.

"I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t make a third (62 in the season)," Välimäki said. "I was just flowing. When you start putting good and hitting it good, you just keep going and enjoy the round.

"Last time I missed the cut by a lot of shots, so I didn’t have big expectations for the week. It’s nice to start this way."

Robert MacIntyre and Yannik Paul, who sit third and fourth respectively in the European Points List with only one qualifying spot available, were in the group of four at six under par, alongside Team Europe Vice Captain Edoardo Molinari and India's Manu Gandas in a competitive field in Prague.

Sami Valimaki

Välimäki started on the back nine and he did not wait around to get into the red numbers.

The 2020 Oman Open champion started with a birdie from 14 feet at the tenth before putting his approach from the rough at the next to three feet to reach two under through two holes.

He made it three in a row at the 12th before landing his tee shot to 14 feet at the 13th, which he drained for a fourth successive gain.

Välimäki did not stop there as his putter continued to be hot when he rolled in from 23 feet to climb to five under par through five holes.

The 25-year-old had further chances at the 17th and 18th as he parred his way at the turn, but he got back on the birdie trail at the first when he chipped to seven feet to pick up his sixth shot of the day.

He dialled in to 12 feet at the par three third saw him move to seven under and he missed another effort at the next.

Hisatsune and Schmitt were already in the clubhouse with their first rounds of 65, with Gandas still on the course at the seven under mark.

However, when Välimäki dialled in his approach to five feet at the fifth and he rolled in the birdie putt, he was the sole leader.

The Finn saved par at the seventh following a fine bunker shot before he doubled his advantage with a gain from 12 feet at the eighth, and he was inches from reaching double figures with his birdie effort at the last.

Hojgaard has an outside shot of being part of Luke Donald's European team in Rome next month and the Dane would have impressed Vice Captain Francesco Molinari, who was his playing partner on Thursday.

He opened up with back-to-back birdies and added another at the sixth before dropping his only shot of the day at the eighth.

That injected a spur of low scoring around the turn as a birdie-eagle-birdie from the ninth saw him jump up to six under and with a chance of seriously challenging Välimäki.

Hojgaard missed great chances from six feet for a gain at the 13th and 15th before he finally rolled one in at the last to get to seven under.

Bjork and Clements were flawless in their rounds of 65 with seven birdies apiece, while Hisatsune carded eight gains and one bogey and Schmitt mixed two dropped shots with nine birdies.

MacIntyre and Paul, who are separated by only 90.67 points in the European Points List, did not shy from the Ryder Cup battle as they both carded 33 on the front and back nine in their blemish-free rounds.

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