Portmarnock Links’ Robin Dawson is learning his trade this year and if he’s learned anything about tour golf it’s a bit like Winston Churchill’s assessment of Russia — a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
Take his recent form. After shooting rounds of 74, 72, 79, 75, 81 and 74 to be 27 over for his last three events - missing all three cuts - he made eight birdies in an immaculate 64 to race to the top of the leaderboard on day one of the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour in Morocco.
“I’m really pleased,” said Dawson, who leads by a shot from England's Jack Senior with Shannon's Daniel Brennan joint 59th after a 73 on the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. “It was nice to play some carefree golf and just let it happen.
"My form has been absolutely rubbish to be honest. But golf is a funny game. I feel like I’ve been playing okay and then I shoot something that leaves me scratching my head, wondering what is going on.
"Then today happens.
Timing is everything in professional golf and with only next week’s Stone Irish Challenge at Headfort to come before the top players head to China for two events before the Grand Final is contested by the top 45, 88th ranked Dawson has given himself a chance to make a major move.
The 23-year-old is looking to surge up the Road to Mallorca standings with a strong finish this week but with only the top 53 players in the Rankings following the Moroccan event making the field for the penultimate event of the season, the Foshan Open, he needs to at least make it into the top 70 over the next two weeks.
With four events remaining before the top 45 players battle it out for the all-important 15 European Tour berths up for grabs at the Challenge Tour Grand Final, the former Walker Cup player knows a strong result is required this week.
He duly delivered on day one, posting six birdies over his opening eight holes to propel himself into the lead, before picking up two more shots from the turn.
“I’m outside the top 70 so I know that I’ve got to play well in the next couple of weeks to give myself a chance,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m just going to go out there and give it 100 per cent.”
The Portmarnock Links player recorded an impressive round of 64, six under par, in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the European Tour as he attained a career-best top 30 finish in the Rolex Series event, but finds himself in contention for the first time in his short career following a mixed debut season.
“I’m really enjoying playing this week. This is one of the best courses we play all year, the greens were perfect and tee to green you’ve got to be accurate if you’re going to score well. I can’t fault the course at all, it’s been really fun.”
Swede Oscar Lengden sits two shots behind Dawson’s lead, on six under par, as he goes in search of his third Challenge Tour title in as many years, with Welshman David Boote, Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson and Spaniard Santiago Tarrio Ben one shot further back.
The second round of the Lalla Aïcha Challenge Tour will begin at 8:00am local time, with Dawson getting his second round under way at 2:00pm.