Jonathan Caldwell rediscovered the form that saw him become a European Tour winner in June, bouncing back from four straight missed cuts in fine style with an opening eight-under 64 at the Hero Open.
“Delighted. Especially with recent form, it hasn’t been so good,” said Caldwell. “Delighted that a bit of the work I’ve done over the last week or so with my coach at home is paying off. Hopefully I can keep going forward.
“I played well in Sweden, I had the week off after and came straight back out and played Germany. I played okay but didn’t feel it was quite there. Then you’re always looking for something. It’s like a pendulum, you go one way with something and you’ve got to get back to where you were. Slowly getting back to where I was from Sweden form.”
With the European Tour returning to Scotland for its second of three events on the 2021 Race to Dubai, the 37-year old Clandeboye professional looked right at home around Fairmont St Andrews where, starting from the tenth tee, he made three birdies in an outward half of 33.
Caldwell would drop his first and only shot of the day at the second, his 11th, but it was all scintillating stuff from there as he bounced back with three birdies on the spin from the third before an eagle ‘2’ at the par-4 seventh was followed by a birdie ‘2’ at the eighth; Caldwell parring the last for his 64, home and hosed trailing just one shot behind Scot Callum Hill’s nine-under par early lead.
Although it’s only day one, Caldwell admits that having a win already under his belt this season allowed him to be patient as he worked towards an upturn in form and if he can keep going like he did on day one, the Northern Irishman has no doubt that he could be in the mix come Sunday once more.
“I suppose (the win) takes a bit of the pressure off after missing four cuts in a row, that I don’t have to put pressure on myself to have good weeks to get the money up,” Caldwell added.
“Having those exemptions knowing I’m in the big events, with the big prize funds and the bigger points, it does take a bit of the pressure off but I still put pressure on myself to play well, make cuts and play well at the weekend.
“I try and do what I’ve done today. Trust what I’m doing on the range and getting to the golf course and continuing to trust it. If I can do that, we’ll be okay over the weekend.”
Also in the clubhouse after a good day’s work was Gavin Moynihan who recovered brilliantly from an outward half of 38 with four birdies on the spin to card a two-under 70. Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney dropped two shots in his last three holes in a one-under 71 while Ardglass professional Cormac Sharvin was in with a one-over 73. It proved a day to forget for Paul Dunne and Tom McKibbin who both signed for 79s in the much tougher weather of the second half of Thursday’s draw.
At the top, Hill carded the lowest round of his European Tour career as he took a one stroke lead into day two at the Hero Open. One of the day’s early starters, the 26-year-old made the most of benign conditions as he signed for a bogey free round of 63, setting a new course record in the process on the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews.
“I putted well,” said Hill. “I didn’t put it in places that caused me too much bother – I did make my fair share of putts. One really good 15-footer on number one to save par and a lot of mid-range putts for birdies.
“We got the best part of (the weather) 100 per cent. Our front nine was relatively calm, probably half a club wind, then back nine picked up. We got three quarters of our day in quite pleasant conditions, I think it’s just getting worse from here – we took advantage.
“I really enjoy it (playing at home). There’s a lot of family and friends who can come and watch, I always enjoy playing in front of people I know. It makes it good fun.”
Searching for a maiden European Tour victory, Hill is one of 17 players in the field bidding to become the first Scottish winner on home soil since Paul Lawrie in 2012. He sits one stroke ahead of Scandinavian Mixed winner Caldwell, who in turn sits one stroke clear of Ross Fisher of England, American Chase Hanna and Robin Sciot-Siegrist of France.
In a share of sixth on six-under par are Chris Paisley, Alvaro Quiros and Nicolai von Dellingshausen.
- Full scoring HERE