Tapio Pulkkanen was in a class of his own as his opening ten under par round of 62 gave him a three shot lead of the Turkish Airlines Challenge on a glorious first day at Gloria Golf Club.
The Finn had ten birdies and an eagle, making only five pars all day, to leave Jan Cafourek, Julien Guerrier, Martin Ovesen and Ashton Turner, his nearest competitors on seven under par, trailing in his wake in the second event of the new European Challenge Tour season.
The 26 year old endured a testing 2016 having won five times on the Nordic Golf League the previous year, but in Belek he showed signs of rediscovering that championship form.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “I rolled some good putts today, and I eagled the fifth hole, so that was pretty special, and I ended with four straight birdies.
“I didn’t want to come off the course, I’d have just liked to keep going! The putter was so hot, it’s not very often it gets that hot so that was really nice.
“I’ve had ten under before at tournaments in Finland but, of course, this is Challenge Tour so I think this is probably the best round I’ve ever played.
“The par fives are good for someone like me who hits it long, and I figured out something with my driving yesterday afternoon so that helped me a lot today.
“I like the greens, I liked them from last year as well, and they’re rolling really pure, not going anywhere other than where you want.
“My category this year is not the strongest at the moment so I have a good chance, being here, to make something special happen this week, because my aim this year is to get a full status on the Challenge Tour.
“I haven’t been able to play my best golf on the Challenge Tour yet, that’s how I feel. Last year I had a couple of good weeks but I haven’t been able to play as I want to play, but now I feel like I’m maybe clicking onto something, and I’m feeling comfortable here.”
Neither Frenchman Guerrier nor Denmark’s Ovesen dropped a shot all round, impressive first rounds of 65 putting them both firmly in contention for a maiden victory on the Road to Oman alongside Cafourek of the Czech Republic and Englishman Turner in a tie for second place.
One shot behind that trio are Steven Brown, Emilio Cuartero Blanco, Ryan Evans and Mads Søgaard, while 2016 champion Clément Sordet opened his title defence with a two under par round of 70.