Jonathan Caldwell was solid if unspectacular in his first round of the Dutch Open at Bernardus Golf as he shot a one-under par 71.
The Clandeboye native carded just a pair of birdies alongside one bogey in a steady opening effort to leave himself six shots adrift of local hero Joost Luiten who is hunting a hat trick of home victories.
Caldwell who still has work to do to make sure he is there for the weekend opened his round with ten successive pars. His first move was a backward one as a dropped shot on the eleventh sent him the wrong side of par before he responded with a bounceback birdie on 12.
A birdie on the par-4 16th moved him into the red and that’s where he ended the day and he lies in a share of 47th place.
Meanwhile, Cormac Sharvin’s struggles continued and it was another round with another big number. The Ardglass native double-bogeyed the par-5 18th (his 9th) on his way to a three-over 75.
The 29-year-old roared out of the traps with a brace of birdies and briefly it looked as if his fortunes might be about to change but he gave those shots back on 13 and 14 before the disaster on 18.
Sharvin carded four birdies in all with two more arriving on three and seven, but his scorecard was again littered with mistakes and dropped shots on two, four and nine saw him home in 37 and a share of 121st position.
Danish starlet Rasmus Hojgaard and England’s Eddie Pepperell – who is showing signs of a welcome return to form – were tied at the top for much of the day on six-under after shooting 66s but local favourite Luiten sent the home fans away happy as a birdie on the last gave him the outright lead on seven-under.
The Dutchman’s 65 included six birdies and just one bogey coming on the eleventh. The two-time winner of this event birdied four of his last seven holes to ascend to the summit.
Despite the fireworks towards the finish, Luiten wasn’t satisfied with his score and feels he could be further ahead.
“It could have been better but you know, I won’t be too picky!
“I have been struggling a bit with my game, so it was great to see the score today and for some reason I just love playing in front of the home crowd.
“I got off to a fast start and I kept it going, seven under is a good day in these conditions.
“I think for me because there is so much going on around you, I need to get into my own little bubble and just do my thing, and for some reason when there is a lot more people than I am used to I’m better at it, or it makes you go into that place.
“So that is the place I am trying to find every day but obviously you have to pretend like the crowd is there all the time and it’s hard, but I have been able to do it today so hopefully we keep it going.
“It was tough in the afternoon, the wind was blowing, there were some tricky holes into the wind so anything under par would have been a good score I think in the afternoon, but I was three or four under after six so you adjust what you want to make and I think seven under is good.
“I really went down that last hole trying to make a birdie to lead on my own and that is always cool,” he added.
Eddie Pepperrell is known as one of the more humorous characters on the DP World Tour but also one of pedigree, having won twice on the Tour and played in all four major championships. The last few years have seen Pep wallow in the doldrums and lose his full playing rights but a new preparation method (or lack of) has seen him return to the top of leaderboards.
“Last year I was trying hard, I was turning up to tournaments early, working a lot harder than I historically did and I was getting home knackered,” said Pepperell who is 555th in the world.
“And (Pepperell’s partner) Jen was like ‘What are you doing? You used to play Majors blind, when you were doing well you wouldn’t bother with practice rounds’, and I think she has got a point.
“For me, I always focused on energy levels, short game, trying to at least feel comfortable with where my game is actually at.
“I could play my home golf course and swinging it the way I have been over the last couple of years, not make a cut out here, so the truth is you have got to have your skill set and I am just prioritising that and I think things are moving in the right direction.”
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