Timely boost for Liam Johnston as Calum Hill shines again

Liam Johnston shot his best round since the Kenya Open in March. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Liam Johnston shot his best round since the Kenya Open in March. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
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Liam Johnston produced one of his best rounds of the season to be up among the leaders in this week’s European Tour event as Calum Hill maintained his brilliant run of form on the Challenge Tour.

Johnston, who sits 159th in the Race to Dubai in his rookie season on the main circuit, handed himself a timely boost as he carded a bogey-free five-under-par 67 in the D+D Real Czech Masters at Albatross Golf Resort in Prague. The effort, his best score since also carding a 67 in the third round of the Kenya Open in March, left him lying three shots off the lead in joint tenth.

The 26-year-old, who won twice on the Challenge Tour last season to be among four Scots to earn a step up to the European Tour, finished eighth in Kenya only to then go off the boil as he missed seven cuts in nine events since then.

On a day when Malaysia’s Gavin Green carded eight birdies in the first 12 holes en route to a 64, Bob MacIntyre was next best among the Scottish contingent with a 69.

Hill, meanwhile, got off to a promising start in the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland as he bids to secure an automatic promotion to the top tour by recording his third win of the season on the Challenge circuit.

After a four-under 66 at Massereene, he sits joint fourth, two shots behind compatriot Craig Ross, with 
Connor Syme also to the fore following a three-under 67 at Galgorm Castle.

Ross, who is in his rookie season on the second-tier circuit, made his score with a burst of five birdies in six holes as he covered the front nine in 30.

“I’ve had some poor performances to start the season, so it’s nice to be able to put a strong score together out there today,” said the former South African Match-Play champion from Kirkhill.

“I was missing a few greens early on but made some good up-and-downs over my opening nine and then on the closing nine I was just able to slot in some birdie putts and it was obviously great to finish with five birdies in the last six holes.

“I’m expecting Galgorm Castle to be a little tougher tomorrow, especially because the weather’s not looking so good but I’m just going to try and do more of the same stuff.”

The leader added of the ground-breaking event that involves men and women playing together but in separate tournaments for equal prize-money: “I really enjoyed playing in the Jordan Mixed Open, where we were paired up with one woman and a senior.

“I know this event is a little bit different in that we are not playing directly against the girls, but it’s cool to see another format like this on the schedule and I’ve been really enjoying the experience so far.”

In the women’s event, Kylie Henry and Carly Booth both opened with 72s while amateur Chloe Goadby is also in the top 30 after a 74.