Ewen Ferguson happy with bogey-free start in Challenge Tour Grand Final

Ewen Ferguson heaped praise on the experienced Kiwi looper, Shane Koeries, after seeing his patience rewarded with a solid start on a day when Carnoustie caddie/car salesman Paul Drummond helped steer Espen Kofstad into a share of the first-round lead in the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final in Mallorca.

Ewen Ferguson tees off at the first in the opening round of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at T-Golf & Country Club in Mallorca. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.
Ewen Ferguson tees off at the first in the opening round of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at T-Golf & Country Club in Mallorca. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

In contrast to fellow Scot Craig Howie, who had a bit of a roller-coaster ride on the back nine at T-Golf & Country Club near Palma as he had to settle for a one-over-par 73, Ferguson was bogey-free in his opening circuit along with just three others in the 45-man field in carding a 69.

The effort left him sitting in a tie for 15th, four shots behind Kofstad and Austrian Lukas Nemecz, in the concluding event in the season-long battle for 20 cards, with Ferguson, and rightly so, deeming himself pleased with his day’s work.

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“I played lovely and I think that was reflected by the fact I was bogey-free,” said the 25-year-old Glaswegian, who had to wait until the par-5 11th for his first birdie of the round before his second gain came from 15 feet at the penultimate hole.

Norwegian Espen Kofstad celebrates with his caddie, Carnoustie man Paul Drummond, after holing his seond shot for an eagle at the 14th in the first round of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at T-Golf & Country Club in Mallorca. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

Earlier, his approach at the first was all over the flag but, after being a bit unlucky that it didn’t spin back more and be left with a tap in, a 10-foot birdie chance went abegging, as was the case at the par-5 second.

“I didn’t want to lose my patience and get frustrated after missing those early chances as I’ve been there before in the first round and you can almost rule yourself out of an event,” he admitted.

Koeries, who worked for Bernd Wiesberger as the Austrian was establishing himself on the European Tour, picked up Ferguson’s bag earlier this season and, on this evidence, he is clearly having a positive impact on the former British and Scottish Boys’ champion.

“I definitely feel that I’ve become better at staying patient and Shane has helped in that respect,” said Ferguson. “I think I used to overrule caddies to a certain extent when I got angry with myself. I was almost dismissive but, with Shane, I’m not allowed to do that.

Craig Howie on the 14th hole during day one of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A at T-Golf & Country Club in Mallorca. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

“He’s quite a bullish and strong figure and he makes me get on with it, as I did today. I had a lot of putts out there that could have fallen on another day. But I’m happy about how I played, having felt that way for quite a while, so it’s a good start.”

Sixth in the Road to Mallorca Rankings heading into the event, Ferguson is now 10th in the projected standings, but he is feeling quietly confident that he can have moved in the other direction once the final putt of the season has dropped here on Sunday.

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“I definitely feel a low one is coming,” he said. “I feel as though I am quite good at shooting two, three and four-unders regularly, but I definitely feel a low one is brewing. It could be tomorrow and hopefully that’s the case.”

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With brother and new professional recruit Darren on his bag, Howie made the perfect start by splitting the fairway at the first then confidently knocking in a 10-footer for birdie.

The 27-year-old from Peebles, who set out in 16th position in the rankings and needs a strong week to ensure he stays inside the top 20, looked really relaxed and composed over the first seven holes before the round “unravelled a bit”.

He attributed a triple-bogey 7 at the 10th to being “non-committal with my tee shot” before the next six holes produced a mix of three birdies and two bogeys.

“P***” was his verdict afterwards, though he quickly admitted that was a bit harsh on himself. “After seven holes, it was pretty decent and I salvaged some respectability with some decent wedges on the back nine, but I am disappointed with one-over,” added the Stirling University graduate.

Sitting in a tie for 38th, he’s now 17th in the projected standings, which he doesn’t plan to check until the four rounds are done and dusted. “I’m not looking at other people’s scores or the projected rankings. I just need to focus on myself,” said Howie.

“Today isn’t disastrously bad and I certainly had plenty of birdie chances, but the three or four bad shots I hit were costly, so I will do a wee bit of practice and try to tidy up a couple of things.”

In just their third event working together, Kofstad and Drummond seem to be striking up a good partnership, with the Norwegian signing for an eagle, holing out from just under 80 yards at the 14th – and five birdies as he set the pace along with Nemecz, who carded seven birdies.

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“It came about through a mutual friend, (European Tour player) Matt Southgate, who is a member of my club,” said Drummond, who caddied for Lexi Thompson in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie in August. “Espen and him started out on tour together and Espen was in touch with Matt to say he was looking for someone to caddie for him.

“He’s very, very good and he’s comfortable to be around, which makes things easy for me and vice versa, so it works well. “I’m doing this as well as helping my parents with the garage in Carnoustie and it is working well.

“Espen has pretty much secured his main tour card, so we are booked up for the three weeks in South Africa later in the year and we will see how it goes from there, I suppose.”

Kofstad, who is bidding to become the first player to top the Road to Mallorca Rankings on two separate occasions, having already achieved the feat in 2012, reckons Southgate has come up trumps for him.

“Paul is great,” said the four-time Challenge Tour winner. “He just keeps me happy and he is doing a good job.”

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