GIRONA, Spain -- Argentina’s Estanislao “Tano” Goya made light work of testing conditions in northern Spain Saturday to claim a two-shot lead after the first round of the European Tour’s Q-School finals at PGA Catalunya Resort.
The 156-man field is split over the resort’s Stadium Course and Tour Course over the first four days, playing two rounds on each before a cut at 70 plus ties precedes the final 36 holes on the Stadium Course. A total of 25 cards for 2013 are up for grabs.
After a steady, if unspectacular, front nine on the resort’s 6,610-yard, par-70 Tour Course on which Goya made two birdies and a bogey to turn in 34, the 24-year-old from Cordoba made a remarkable eagle on the 10th – a strike that proved the fillip for a highly impressive back nine in an increasingly influential wind that was gusting up to 25 miles per hour at times.
Goya, who won the 2009 Madeira Islands Open, pulled his drive way left at the 491-yard, par-5 10th. His approach finished on the back of the green, and the former Challenge Tour graduate rolled in an eagle putt from at least 60 feet.
A further birdie followed at the 13th hole before he sank another sizeable birdie putt – this time of around 25 foot – at the short 16th hole. Goya capped off a fine round with a sixth birdie of the day at the 18th.
“I played very nicely today, didn’t miss many shots and managed to hole some putts, so it was very good,” said Goya, who finished just four places away from retaining his European Tour card after finishing in 123rd place on the 2012 money list.
“The eagle was definitely a highlight because of what led to it, so it was a real boost at that time,” he added. “That and the long one at 16 were two putts that gave me a lot of confidence. But overall I just played very nicely. I hit a lot of fairways and greens, which is obviously the main thing here.”
After finishing 94th, 99th and 98th in his previous three seasons on the European Tour, Goya made a sound start to the 2012 season with a tie for sixth in the Avantha Masters in February and a tie for ninth at the Sicilian Open in April. However, a barren run of eight missed cuts in 12 events in the middle of year saw him slip down the rankings and narrowly miss out on keeping his card.
Goya, though, is approaching the Q-School challenge with optimism.
“To be honest, I just didn’t get the right tournaments,” he said. “I couldn’t get into the last tournaments in Singapore or Hong Kong, but I played very nicely in South Africa and was just two strokes too short. But I’m still playing well so I’m confident and feel good for the next five rounds.”
Mikael Lundberg rode the ever-strengthening wind to a 4-under 68 on the brutal Stadium Course layout to lie second alongside Scotland’s George Murray.
The Swede, who lives with his family just 60 miles south of PGA Catalunya Resort in the region’s capital of Barcelona, got off to the perfect start in his eighth Q-School appearance with a birdie at the first hole, his first of six on a round that was only slightly soured by a three-putt bogey – his second dropped shot of the day – on the 18th to finish.
“I don’t set goals at something like this; you just play and try to stay as relaxed as possible,” said Lundberg, who was one of only seven players out of 78 to finish under par for the day on the Stadium Course. “You don’t want to be here but now I am I just have to make the best of it. My game hasn’t been that good the last month or so, so I’m just happy it’s starting to come together now.
“It was very tough out there, but I played really solidly and made a few good putts at the beginning and then holed my bunker shot on the 11th,” he added. “It was unfortunate the way I finished, but overall it was a good round and I’m in a good position.”
Murray fired a 66 on the Tour Course to take a share of second place in his first Q-School appearance since 2009. He fired five birdies and one bogey, but after finishing the season 155th in the rankings, Murray stressed the need for perspective so early in the marathon contest in Spain.
“It’s a nice start, it was very windy at times so it wasn’t easy at all out there,” he said. “I got off to a good start with a regulation birdie at my first, the 10th, then I picked up another shot on the 12th.
“I got lucky on the 18th, where my drive could easily have bounced out of bounds but just stayed in bounds,” he added. “So that was a lucky break, and I made the most of it with three more birdies on my back nine.
“I can’t really put my finger on where it’s gone wrong for me this season, I just haven’t really got going, but hopefully I’ve turned a bit of a corner today. There’s obviously still a long way to go though, so I’m not going to get carried away just yet.”