Spanish duo Alejandro del Rey and Manuel Elvira and Finland’s Matias Honkala share the first round lead at the Empordà Challenge after posting four under par opening rounds of 66 at Empordà Golf.
The switching wind made scoring difficult on day one in Girona and, as it transpired, it was three early starters who will share a one stroke lead ahead of a packed leaderboard heading into day two.
Del Rey, who became the first player in major golf tour history to post a 14 under par round of 58 at last year’s Swiss Challenge, was pleased with the way he managed his game to move to the top of the pack on day one in Spain.
“It was a nice round,” he said. “It was good to keep the good rounds going. I played well the last couple of weeks.
“I teed off ten and started pretty fast, birdieing ten, 11 and 12. I hit a really good putt on 11 and then made a good birdie on 12. It was playing pretty long – I hit driver-driver on the par five because it was playing into the wind.
“It was a good start so I just tried to keep going. I hit some very good shots around here, it’s tricky because it’s windy and sometimes it feels hard and then other times it dies down. It’s not swirling but it’s changing intensity. It’s hard to be clean around here and I’m happy with how I played.
“I’ve been pretty patient recently. I think I’ve managed myself pretty well. It’s just clicking and I’ve felt like I’ve been playing good golf for a long time, but just couldn’t put the rounds together like I’d like to.”
Honkala, the Finnish 23-year-old, dropped his only shot of the day on the difficult par four 18th hole, but was pleased with his ball striking around the Links Course.
“It was quite nice,” he said. “The course is in really good shape. It was a little bit tricky with the wind today. It was blowing, then not blowing but I still managed to shoot a really good round.
“I’ve played this course many times, so I know the course and I know where to hit it.
“I was striking the ball really well today. I didn’t really make any mistakes, apart from on the last where the wind didn’t take the ball and it went a little bit past where I wanted it to.”
Elvira, the younger brother of DP World Tour winner Nacho, enjoyed a blistering start to proceedings with a four under par front nine before adopting a patient approach to ensure he maintained his position ahead of round two.
“I'm very happy with my game today. It was a windy day, and the 18th is not easy at all. The greens were tough, but I was able to keep my composure and patience on the course.
“The season did not start well, I had a tough few months at the beginning. I started badly on the Alps Tour, I missed the cut at the Challenge de España, although the conditions were very difficult, but last week I played well. I made the cut on the number, I struggled a lot but finished 15th. I'm feeling confident and hopefully, from here on in, everything will go in the right direction.”
Fourth place is shared by 13 players on three under par, including Farmfoods Scottish Challenge supported by The R&A winner Javier Sainz, English duo Todd Clements and John Parry and Swedish trio Philip Eriksson, Sebastian Petersen and Henric Sturehed.