Kevin Phelan and Dermot McElroy broke par but it was a tough day in the office for Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee in the Challenge Tour’s Terre dei Consoli Open.
Phelan is 23rd after a two under 70 with McElroy 36th after a 71 but McGee is 98th after a four 76 in the the second Italian European Challenge Tour event of the year.
Rhys Enoch made the perfect start, firing a seven under par 65 to take a two-shot lead. The Welshman knows he needs a high finish in Italy to extend his season with limited fields contesting the final four events.
He found Terre dei Consoli Golf Club very much to his liking, making seven birdies in a bogey-free round.
The 28 year old’s best result this year is a tie for 13th at the Fred Olsen Challenge de España and, after injury struggles that have left him 133rd in the Road to Oman Rankings, he acknowledged he was under pressure to succeed this week.
“My game’s feeling really good,” he said. "I know I need a big week this week to keep playing this season, and I’ve had a good few weeks to practise so now we’ve got to go and do it.
“I’m putting that pressure on myself, but I have to – I know if I don’t finish in the top five then I won’t be playing any more this year, so I’ve got to go out and see what I can do.
“The year’s been very rough. I started out playing nicely but got an injury after the first three events and I missed a month, and I rushed back to play too soon, missed a couple of cuts by one, so now I’ve had a proper chance to rest I’m playing some better golf.
“Three more days like today would be perfect – I know there’s some weather coming but I’m more than happy with my game and the course and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Enoch’s closest challengers are all former winners on the Challenge Tour – Robert Coles, José-Filipe Lima and Victor Riu shooting 67 to share second place on five under par.
Lima won this season’s Najeti Open but despite that win, the Portuguese finds himself outside the top 15 on the Road to Oman, and therefore not set for European Tour graduation.
However, the 34 year old is hopeful that he has planned his year – which included a trip to the Olympic Games to represent his country – to perfection and that he is ready to peak when it matters the most.
“I’ve not been playing much this year because I’ve always been thinking of the end of the year,” he said. “I know how tough it is with the final five or six weeks when you are tired, but I’ve been playing well.
“I’m at the stage I was expecting to be right now, I just need to keep making birdies and hopefully I can do something good, but this was my plan from the beginning and at the moment it’s going ok.
“I’m feeling really well, and I’m not saying that just because I shot five under today. I was really solid, no mistakes, and it was a good day.”
Scores after round 1
65 R Enoch (Wal),
67 V Riu (Fra), R Coles (Eng), J Lima (Por),
68 J Sarasti (Esp), M Ovesen (Den), J Glennemo (Swe), M Wallace (Eng), M Orrin (Eng),
69 M Ortolani (Ita), P Shields (Sco), S Hodgson (Eng), M Søgaard (Den), A Pavan (Ita), D Law (Sco), P Whiteford (Sco), J Heath (Eng), C Ford (Eng), F Mruzek (Cze), B Poke (Den), W Harrold (Eng), O Farr (Wal),
70 S Kim (USA), A Björk (Swe), J Edfors (Swe), J Doherty (Sco), C Bouniol (Fra), A Rai (Eng), C Blomstrand (Swe), J Makitalo (Fin), A Zemmer (Ita), K Phelan (Irl), J Senior (Eng), H Joannes (Bel), A Velasco (Esp),
71 J Garcia Pinto (Esp), A Bernadet (Fra), J Sjöholm (Swe), D Gaunt (Aus), M Delpodio (Ita), M Crespi (Ita), S Brown (Eng), D Stewart (Sco), R Santos (Por), Dermot McElroy (Nir), P Widegren (Swe), S Henry (Sco), T Murray (Eng),
76 Ruaidhri McGee (Irl)