Stephen Dodd is the first to admit his 2019 Staysure Tour campaign has not gone according to plan, yet despite a balky driver, he carded an opening-round of eight under par 64 to take a one shot lead at the Murhof Legends – Austrian Senior Open.
The Welshman showed remarkable resilience during the Staysure Tour’s first official day of competition in Austria, which is the 45th different country to host Europe’s over-50s circuit.
Following a bogey at the eighth hole, Dodd carded back-to-back birdies on the ninth and tenth, and then repeated the bounce-back effort by erasing his double-bogey at the 15th with consecutive gains on the next two holes.
“The score was good,” the 53-year-old said, “I didn’t particularly drive it very well, so I’ve got a bit to work on perhaps, but I am delighted with the score.”
Dodd has collected one win on the Staysure Tour in each of the three years he has been eligible to play, but has not yet matched that high standard in 2019, and finds himself in 30th on the Order of Merit. Still, the man who collected his first professional title at the 1992 Bank Austria Open knows that the book is not closed this season just yet.
“To put it politely, it’s been a quite one,” he said. “The season is not finished yet though, we’ve still got a few more events, so we’ll see where we are come December.
“There are plenty of birdie chances if you drive it well around here. The greens are good and the weather was perfect today so it all sets up for a good week.
“So far, we’ve had a fantastic week. Gary Stangl and the team and everybody at Murhof have looked after us fantastically well.”
The highlight of the day came when Thomas Levet holed his 235-yard second shot into the par five seventh for an albatross.
“Making an albatross helps a lot,” the former Ryder Cup winner said. “I had my first albatross 39 years ago when I was 12-years-old and a 24 handicap. I holed a 5-wood then, but there were no spectators.
“Today the spectators behind the green were so shocked nobody reacted, so I thought, from where I was, that the ball had run through the green because I could see the pitch mark but not the ball.
“When I arrived at the green, I fixed my pitch mark and started walking to the back of the green when a guy shouted ‘It’s in the hole!’”
The Frenchman hit every green in regulation on day one, and along with his three under par hole, signed for a six under par 66, which has him in a share of fourth place alongside Jarmo Sandelin, José Coceres and Rafael Gomez.
A pair of Englishmen, double Senior Major Champion Roger Chapman and Staysure Tour Rookie Gary Evans, sit only one stroke behind Dodd on seven under par, while home-hero Markus Brier carded a one under par 71, which currently has him in a share of 29th.
The second round of the Murhof Legends – Austrian Senior Open begins tomorrow at 9:00 am local time, with the lead group of Dodd, Chapman and Evans set to go at 12:18 pm.