Hoey left in the traps on day one of Challenge Tour Grand Final

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Michael Hoey in Mallorca, Spain. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Michael Hoey has some catching up to do if he’s to find his way into the top-20 on the Road to Mallorca rankings at week’s end after an even par 71 left him six shots off the pace after the opening day of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A.

Starting the week in 36th place on the money-list with the top-20 guaranteed a main tour card next season, the 42-year old traded one birdie and one bogey to sit in a share of 31st at even, a half a dozen shots behind the early lead.

“The course looks easier than it plays – we found that today,” Hoey said. “But of course a few guys will always get in going. I need solo 3rd I think so it’s a big ask. Need to hole a lot of putts the next 3 days, still it’s a lot easier being here than the finals in China and Oman used to be.”

Espen Kofstad, who is targeting history by becoming the first player to top the Road to Mallorca Rankings on two separate occasions, and Austrian Lukas Nemecz will share a one-stroke lead heading into day two.

The Norwegian won the Rankings in 2012 after securing victory in the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, and after carding an opening six under par round of 65 which included a hole-out eagle, five birdies and a bogey at T Golf & Country Club, he got off to the perfect start in his quest to replicate history.

“I’m very happy. I was super solid all day.,” said Kofstad. “It took a while to get started and then the back nine was amazing.

“The course is really nice. It is playing very different to the practice rounds days now that the green speed is up and they are getting a little bit firmer due to the wind. If there is no rain, it will be a phenomenal test on Sunday.

“It’s nice not having to worry about securing my European Tour card. In 2012, I had no idea I had a chance to win the Rankings so when I came off the course and got told I had won both the tournament and the Rankings it was a very nice surprise.

“I’m feeling in perfect condition, I have been all season. I haven’t had any issues which has been lovely.”

Nemecz posted seven birdies and a bogey to move alongside Kofstad, and with both men having already secured their European Tour playing privileges for the 2022 season, sitting ninth and tenth in the Rankings respectively, they will be looking to finish as high on the Road to Mallorca as possible to maximise their starts next year.

“I’ve got nothing to complain about,” said Nemecz. “I had one bogey but that was on ten and it nearly feels like a par five. Seven birdies, that was a good thing today.

“The wind picked up but luckily it felt like it dropped on the back nine when you’re playing more in the trees. The course played very nicely today. It’s still soft and even if you missed the fairway you could still get some spin on.

“I’m absolutely looking forward to next year already. That’s the main goal on Challenge Tour, to move up to the European Tour.”

South African Oliver Bekker sits one shot further back in third place after a bogey-free round of 66, while Road to Mallorca Number Two Ricardo Gouveia shares fourth place with German duo Marcel Schneider and Yannik Paul. Gouveia is another man looking to enter the history books with a second Grand Final and Rankings triumph, after he achieved the same feat in 2015 by winning the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman and finishing the year as Challenge Tour Number One.

Eight players share seventh place on three under par, including South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber, Road to Mallorca Number Four Julien Brun and Swede Jesper Svensson.

Round two of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A will begin at 8:15am local time, with Kofstad and Nemecz teeing it up in the final group alongside Bekker at 10:50am.

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