A sensational finish from Alexander Bjӧrk, birdieing his last four holes, gave the Swede the first round lead ahead of Ireland’s Gary Hurley and Dutchman Jurrian van der Vaart at Golf della Montecchia as the Montecchia Open by Lyoness finally got under way.
Heavy rain washed out any chance of play on the first day, reducing the tournament to 54 holes, but, with the greens soft, red numbers soon covered the leaderboard which, heading into the weekend, is topped by Bjӧrk after his bogey-free nine under par round of 62.
The 25 year old has not yet made a cut this season but two top ten finishes last year showed that he has the quality to compete at this level, and he credited an opportune bit of sightseeing in nearby Venice for helping his mentality following yesterday’s delays.
“It’s tough when you have the delays but we went to Venice last night and had a good time,” he said. “It was nice to be able to just switch off and not think about golf and, being near Venice, we all wanted to go there and the cancellation gave us the perfect opportunity.
“I didn’t expect anything coming here because I’ve missed too cuts in a row and didn’t play too well, struggled a little bit, so I’ve been working a lot on my swing and my putting this winter so I’m just really happy it worked out today.
“I’m going to approach the weekend in the same way as today, just hitting fairways and greens, make birdies on the par fives and, if I keep playing like I did today, it will be a good tournament I think.
“I’m aiming for top 15 this year. It’s my third year on the Challenge Tour, I have a good category and I feel ready, so that’s the main goal because I want to be on the European Tour next year.”
Hot on his heels is Irish youngster Hurley, out in the very first group and leader for much of the day thanks to six birdies in his final seven holes, who is one shot behind after an opening 63.
The 23 year old is in his first full season as a professional, having joined paid ranks after helping Great Britain & Ireland to Walker Cup victory last September, and he was disappointed to have to leave the course when he was on such a hot streak.
“When you’re playing good you just want to keep playing,” he said. “But I’m really pleased with my round and I’m just going to try and get some more rest tonight and see what happens tomorrow.
“There was definitely a low one out there today. You play a lot of wedge shots, if you keep hitting the fairways you get a lot of shots from around 100 yards, so if your wedge game is on and you can hole putts from inside 20ft you should make a decent score.
“It can be difficult to handle a delay, and yesterday it actually got to the stage where I didn’t want to go out – I was really tired, we were up at five, and just waiting around thinking about it all meant a lot of mental energy got wasted.
“The greens are soft but not overly soft, but you can throw darts at the flag and it will stop usually. The course staff have done an unbelievable job to get the place in the nick it’s in, they must have put in some work yesterday, so fair play to them, I’d like to thank them for that.
“I’m enjoying the progress I’m making and hopefully I can keep it going – I just want to play every tournament and get into contention at every event, let everything else take care of itself, so hopefully I can push on now from today’s round and see what I can do.”
Van der Vaart eagled the ninth hole on his way to joining Hurley on eight under par, while one shot further back are England’s Gary King and Andrea Pavan, playing on home soil, who both shot bogey-free rounds of 64 to put them in fourth place ahead of a clutch of players on six under par.
Scores after round 1:
62 A Björk (Swe) ,
63 J Van Der Vaart (Ned) , G Hurley (Irl) ,
64 G King (Eng) , A Pavan (Ita) ,
65 A Ahokas (Fin) , M Pavon (Fra) , C Mivis (Bel) , J Hahn (USA) , J Lando Casanova (Fra) , S Fernandez (Esp) , J Makitalo (Fin) , R Kellett (Sco) ,
66 O Farr (Wal) , K Phelan (Irl) , S Walker (Eng) , B Rusch (Sui) , A Rai (Eng) , J Dantorp (Swe) , D Stewart (Sco) , M Nixon (Eng) , F Fritsch (Ger) , R McGee (Irl) , A Saddier (Fra) , G Migliozzi (am) (Ita) ,
67 N Quintarelli (Ita) , M Søgaard (Den) , W Besseling (Ned) , D Van Driel (Ned) , D Huizing (Ned) , A Hortal (Esp) , P Oriol (Esp) , P Angles (Esp) , R Kind (Ned) , N Cullen (Aus) , M Lundberg (Swe) , W Harrold (Eng) , J Senior (Eng) , G Porteous (Eng) , P Widegren (Swe) ,
68 C Costilla (Arg) , J Lima (Por) , M Delpodio (Ita) , T Remkes (Ned) , T Tree (Eng) , M Wiegele (Aut) , M Crespi (Ita) , R Coles (Eng) , A Velasco (Esp) , M Lampert (Ger) , F Maccario (Ita) , M Cea (am) (Ita) ,
69 J Doherty (Sco) , V Riu (Fra) , S Jeppesen (Swe) , C Arendell (USA) , J Barnes (Eng) , E Blom (Swe) , E Cuartero Blanco (Esp) , B Neil (Sco) , A Perrino (Ita) , A Knappe (Ger) , R Saxton (Ned) , D Lloyd (RSA) , J Glennemo (Swe) , H Joannes (Bel) , S Connor (Eng) , M Ortolani (Ita) , P Shields (Sco) , B Ritthammer (Ger) , M Armitage (Eng) , R Santos (Por) , J Smith (Eng) , R Langasque (Fra) , B Stow (Eng) , E Kofstad (Nor) , D Bransdon (Aus) , E Ferguson (am) (Sco) ,
70 J Sjöholm (Swe) , J Girrbach (Sui) , D Wright (Eng) , C Bezuidenhout (RSA) , D Foos (Ger) , P Whiteford (Sco) , S Heisele (Ger) , O Stark (Swe) , J Guerrier (Fra) , J Garcia Pinto (Esp) , A Rota (Ita) , D Løkke (Den) , P Gal (Cze) , S Henry (Sco) , A Tadini (Ita) , J Sarasti (Esp) , E Dubois (Fra) , P Maddy (Eng) , G Axell (Swe) , S Hutsby (Eng) , A Hartø (Den) , C Del Moral (Esp) , C Ford (Eng) , S Wolters (Ger) , M Palmer (RSA) , M Tullo (Chi) , G Forrest (am) (Sco) ,
71 S Tiley (Eng) , A Karlsson (Swe) , T Pulkkanen (Fin) , F Praegant (Aut) , D Gaunt (Aus) , G Moynihan (Irl) , E Di Nitto (Ita) , F Bergamaschi (Ita) , C Sordet (Fra) , P Mejow (Ger) , J Cafourek (Cze) , M Schneider (Ger) , J Loughrey (Eng) , J Stalter (Fra) ,
72 M Lafeber (Ned) , C Doak (Sco) , D Law (Sco) , D Ulrich (Sui) , T Ferrer (Esp) , N Geyger (Chi) , C Sharvin (Nir) , C Selfridge (Nir) , S Soderberg (Swe) , I Cantero Gutierrez (am) (Esp) ,
73 P Relecom (Bel) , J Lara (Esp) , M Simonsen (Den) , T Murray (Eng) , L Scotto (Ita) , S Kim (USA) , L Gagli (Ita) , K Johannessen (Nor) , D Perrier (Fra) , B Hellgren (Swe) ,
74 P Martin Benavides (Esp) , J Ballesteros (Esp) , J Kim (Ita) , R Molnar (Aut) , A Chesters (Eng) , P Howard (Eng) , S Arnold (Aus) , C De Stefani (Ita) , S Hodgson (Eng) ,
75 P Figueiredo (Por) , A Maestroni (Ita) , D Pietzsch (Ger) , E Johansen (Nor) , A Zemmer (Ita) ,
77 G Piris Mateu (Esp) ,
80 L Tintera (Cze) , M Galiano Aguilar (am) (Esp)