Road to Ras Al Khaimah Number One Lorenzo Gagli is back competing at the top of the leaderboard at the Turkish Airlines Challenge on his first European Challenge Tour appearance since victory in Kenya.
The Italian secured his first Challenge Tour triumph after 12 years as a professional last month when he overcame Sweden’s Jens Fahrbring in a three-hole play-off at the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open.
That win propelled the 32 year old to the top of the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings, and Gagli played like a champion in Antalya today, carding six birdies and an eagle en route to signing for a six under par first round of 66.
On a day of low scoring at Gloria Golf Club, Gagli’s opening effort was only good enough for a share of first place with New Zealand’s Josh Geary, Finland’s Kim Koivu, England’s Nathan Kimsey, Sweden’s Oscar Lengden and Scots Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson.
Although nothing currently separates the leading players, Gagli believes he has the upper hand on the rest of the field having already won the season’s most lucrative event – and admits ‘a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.’
“After the win in Kenya it’s fun to come back and today I was much more relaxed than last year,” he said.
“To win the first event of the season was huge and to get my first Challenge Tour win after so long felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
“I woke up this morning with a really bad pain in my neck and my shoulder and I thought it would be a tough day but it was a good day.
“I think it could have been much lower but I’m happy with six under. I missed two short putts and made two bogeys but I had a lot of opportunities to make birdies.
“The course is great and the conditions were perfect today – everything was beautiful.
“The most important thing you need to get right to do well here is your second shot. You have to hit good irons into the flag because from the tee it’s pretty open. The most important shot is definitely your second one.
“I was really relaxed today and when you’re relaxed, you play much, much better.”
Koviu, who won the Belt and Road Colourful Yunnan Open two weeks ago, also carried on his excellent run with an opening round that included seven birdies in Turkey today.
One shot back is a chasing pack of eight players which includes five-time Challenge Tour winner Sam Walker who bagged five birdies and carded a blemish-free five under par round of 67.