O'Briain & Grehan head Irish challenge at KPMG Trophy

Stuart Grehan and Neil O’Briain head the Irish challenge after solid starts on a hot scoring day at the KPMG Trophy in Belgium.
 

 Neil O’Briain / IMage from Getty Images
 
The pair opened with two-under-par rounds of 69 to claim a share of 48th spot as the Challenge Tour field went low on the defenseless L’Empereur track.
 
Tullamore’s Grehan was going along nicely, three-under through his first 7 before a bogey on 8 halted the momentum. From there he parred his way in as the putter got cold where others fired.
 
Dubliner O’Briain got off to an even better start, four-under to the turn and threatening a low one before for two bogeys and not a single gain on the way home put a dampener on the Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year’s day. Still, a sound start for both but in today’s scoring conditions, 69 may well have proved par for the course.
 
Birr’s Stephen Grant, Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy and Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin sit a shot further back in a tie for 70th spot after one-under-par starts.
 
Grant, a former professional footballer with Shamrock Rovers, would have been particularly disappointed to finish bogey-bogey having got himself in a great position with two to play, but anything in the red has a chance to make the weekend’s play provided it’s built on t
omorrow.
The news wasn’t so good for Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell who has it all to do after his three-over-par 74 this afternoon.
Pedro Figueiredo showcased a stunning display of high quality golf to soar to the top of the leaderboard with an eight-under-par 63 at L’Empereur Golf & Country Club.
 
British trio David Law, Stuart Manley and John Parry set the target at seven-under-par after the morning groups had finished, but a devastating start and end to Figueiredo’s round gave him a one-shot lead at the end of the first day.
 
Figueiredo was three under through three after opening with a birdie on the first hole and an eagle on the third, then finished with four successive gains.  
 
The Portuguese, who enjoyed a stellar amateur career, believes the way he utilised his irons provided him with chances to score, which he duly took advantage of.
 
“It was a very good round,” Figueiredo said. “A round with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey is really nice. My iron game was really strong.
“I put a lot of balls close to the pin for birdies and I made the most of them. That’s where most of the birdies came from and I just played solidly from tee to green and took my chances.
 
“I stayed out of the rough well today. I hit a lot of irons off the tee and that put me in position to hit the green and put the ball close to the pin.
 
“Hitting the fairways are key around here and I did that well today. From there, the course turns out to be more simple.”
 
The 26-year-old has made four cuts from six European Challenge Tour starts this season and his aim is to now get into contention more regularly.
 
“I’ve had a steady start to the season and obviously I’d like to have a couple more good results,” he said.
 
“I’ve made a lot of cuts but I haven’t been able to finish near the top so far. It’s time to change that – hopefully this week – but in the coming weeks as well.
 
“I think confidence is almost everything in golf. You really need it out here and I’m feeling confident with my game and hopefully it will stay like that.”
 
It looked as though Law, Manley and Parry would share the lead going into the second round but Figueiredo carded four sensational birdies in his last four holes to steal the lead.
 
His birdie streak came after a bogey on the 14th had dropped him back to four under par, but the run of birdies placed him on top of the pile, ending with a superb approach to within five feet on the 18th, before rolling it home.
 
In addition to the three Brits, Germany’s Alex Knappe, Denmark’s Mark Flindt Haastrup and Carlos Del Moral, of Spain, also sit one off the lead on seven-under-par after posting rounds of 64 during the afternoon.
 
The latter pair did briefly flirt with joining Figueiredo at the top of the leaderboard, but a bogey apiece on the 18th meant they had to settle for a share of second.
 
Leading the home contingent are Hugues Johannes and Kevin Hesbois, who both signed for a three-under-par 68, while Belgian amateur Alan De Bondt is a shot back on two-under.