Jonathan Caldwell and Paul Dunne showed much-needed signs of recovery as they both started well in Denmark at the Made In HimmerLand.
The sun shone on Thursday morning and the early Irish starters followed suit with Caldwell skipping to the clubhouse in just 65 strokes while Dunne went around in 67.
Clandeboye’s Caldwell missed the cut last week in Switzerland but rounds of 68 and 70 would have offered encouragement and he built on those signs with a superb opening effort in Denmark.
The 38-year-old roared to the turn in just 32 strokes with birdies on the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th holes.
The 2021 Scandinavian Mixed winner rolled in a five-footer for a birdie on the 203 yard par-3 3rd before two putts from 16-feet were enough for a birdie on the par-5 5th.
Caldwell was on song with his irons and a six-foot putt on the par-3 6th saw him card his third birdie of the day before he drilled a 17-foot putt for a fourth birdie on 8.
Everything seemed to click for the Northern Irishman as he moved to –5 with a long 40-foot putt on the 13th and a 13-footer on 17 helped him to six-under and a rare bogey-free round.
Caldwell is just three shots off the early lead held by Ross McGowan after the Englishman carded a nine-under 62 on a day of low scoring.
Ewen Ferguson, Justin Walters and Matthew Southgate had held the clubhouse lead on -8 for much of the day but they now share second alongside home hopefuls Rasmus Hojgaard and Marcus Helligkilde.
Greystones native Dunne will rue two closing bogeys but a four-under 67 was a welcome return to form.
Dunne didn’t card a par in his last six holes with a bogey on 13 followed by three successive birdies before a bogey on 17 and a three-putt bogey on 18.
A pair of opening pars for the 2017 British Masters winner were followed by a hat trick of birdies before a bogey on 7 was cancelled out by a birdie on 8 as Dunne turned in 33.
A birdie on the par-3 10th moved Dunne to four-under before his rollercoaster finish.
A big opportunity awaits for the 29-year-old to make his first cut in three events who admits his score came as a surprise.
“I wasn’t feeling it starting off and then I hit a nice shot into 3 and that settled me down,” explained Dunne. “Then I hit a lot of nice shots, drove the ball well and then a couple of three putts a silly bogey with a nine iron on 17. There was plenty of good in there but definitely threw away a much better round but happy enough with a good round.”
From the former Walker Cup player’s point of view, he will hope those late bogeys aren’t costly on Friday evening with the mental fatigue of playing ten weeks in a row perhaps taking its toll.
“This is my tenth week in a row, so just little mistakes like that are creeping in, so try get plenty of rest between now and tomorrow afternoon. My speed putting is usually a strength but that’s been poor the last few weeks so maybe work on that before I start and keep going tee to green.
“It’s been great having Jack Hume caddying, we’ve been in apartments so it’s been easy to get away from it but the fact I know I have two weeks off after this helps. If I had another three coming up it would be more difficult. It’s coming to that time of the season I will have to play every tournament I get into so definitely looking forward to my two weeks off. I like it here and hope I can finish off a good week.”
The Wicklow man looked to have a big future in the game after bursting onto the scene, leading the 2015 Open as an amateur and making the US Amateur semi-finals.
From playing in WGC events, Dunne now finds himself on the brink of falling outside the top-2000 in the world after two years of injury nightmares with his wrist – which he feels he has overcome.
At 223rd in the Race to Dubai, he is hoping for a strong end to the season as he bids to earn back his full DP World Tour playing privileges.
“It hasn’t been a great time for me, one of the goals would be to make sure I make every cut and give myself a chance to play as much as possible and get back in the rhythm to capitalise on playing well and have as good a week as possible.
“I need a really strong finish and if not I have Q-School. Just trying to get in the rhythm of playing good golf again and turning my two-overs into two-unders and four-unders to seven-unders. My game feels much better I feel like I know what I’m doing with all of it so just try get numbers on the board.
“You never know it’s a funny game. My wrist feels fine, my body feels old I feel different than when I was 24 but other than that I feel good.”
Cormac Sharvin and Gavin Moynihan didn’t have the joy their compatriots had as they carded level-par 71s.
- Scoring HERE