Wales Open: Espen Kofstad stars at Celtic Manor to impress Paul McGinley
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 30/08/13 9:43am
Espen Kofstad tees off with Paul McGinley watching
Norway's Espen Kofstad produced a remarkable finish to his round to lead the ISPA Handa Wales Open by two shots after starting the event in the first group alongside Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
McGinley hit the opening tee shot at Celtic Manor to signify the start of the qualifying period for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and that really seemed to inspire last season's Challenge Tour winner.
The 26-year-old birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th before holing out from the bunker on the last for an eagle three to come home in a sparkling 29 and finish on seven-under par after a 64.
First Round Leaders:
(GB & Ire unless stated)
-7 E Kofstad (Nor)
-5 C Wood
-5 R Green (Aus)
-4 G Bourdy (Fra)
T van der Walt (Ned)
-4 M Foster
Click Here for full collated scores
After going out in the very first group, Kofstad set the early clubhouse lead and it was one that could not be matched.
His score was enough to give Kofstad a two-shot lead over Richard Green and Chris Wood and also a glowing endorsement from McGinley, who shot a one-under 70 alongside the flying Norwegian.
"What a finish," said McGinley. "To finish birdie, birdie, birdie eagle is fantastic. He hit it a million miles, hit a lot of fairways, played very well and he deserved that score."
Kofstad won the Challenge Tour last season but missed eight cuts in a row this year and is way down in 149th on the Race to Dubai after struggling with a neck injury, but now seems to be back on form.
"I have been very, very calm the last two weeks," Kofstad said. "I started to settle down a bit. I was a bit stressed and tentative and wasn't able to practice as much as I wanted to with my neck injury.
"Today I wasn't nervous and it felt really easy. I kept hitting the shots and they came off in the end. I got a little lucky I suppose holing a long putt on the 17th and the bunker shot on the last. I was only trying to get it 10-15 feet past the hole because it was a tough shot.
"It would be great to play in the Ryder Cup, although I can't really expect a spot. But I put in a decent application today."
Englishman Woods, who hails from just down the road in Bristol, looked likely to join Kofstad but three-putted his final hole for his only bogey of the round.
"Even though I'm English I do think of this as a home event and it's one I'd love to win," said Wood, who eagled the short par-four 15th after his drive finished just four feet from the hole.
"It's nice to be able to stay at home this week, dinner is on the table when you walk in the door, and I treated my caddie to a Bristol City game on Tuesday.
"We beat Crystal Palace in the Capital One Cup so I think he got lucky. It's probably the best I have seen them play for a couple of years so I think Brendan is now a bit of a closet fan."
Worksop's Mark Foster had reached six under with three holes to play, but bogeyed the 16th and 17th and signed for a four-under 67.