Newport, Wales – Espen Kofstad fired a 7-under 64 on Thursday to grab an early 2-stroke lead at the Wales Open
Kofstad has posted just one top-10 finish this season and is seeking his first career win on the European Tour.
"Today I wasn't nervous and it felt really easy. I kept hitting the shots and they came off in the end," said Kofstad.
Qatar Masters winner Chris Wood and Richard Green share second place on the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort at 5-under 66, while Tjaart van der Walt, Mark Foster and Gregory Bourdy each carded 4-under 67s to tie for fourth.
Robert Rock and Emiliano Grillo occupy seventh place at 3-under 68.
Kofstad went out with the morning wave and opened his round with back-to-back birdies at the first and second. He then followed six straight pars with a bogey at the ninth to make the turn at 1-under.
He got that stroke right back with a birdie at the 10th.
After trading a birdie for a bogey from the 13th, the Norwegian used a strong closing stretch to race into the lead as he rolled in three gains from the 15th, including a 35-foot putt at the 17th. Kofstad then holed out from a bunker for an eagle at the last to head into the clubhouse with the lead at 7- under.
"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," Kofstad said about his strong finish.
Wood also went out with the morning wave and followed an eagle at the 15th with a birdie at the 18th to make the turn at 3-under.
He added gains at the third, sixth and seventh to pull within a stroke of Kofstad, but tripped to a bogey at the last to finish at 5-under.
With winds picking up in the afternoon, Green was the lone member of later wave to pull within striking distance of Kofstad, as he recorded birdies at the second, sixth, eighth, 11th and 15th during his bogey-free round.
NOTES: Kofstad's lone top-10 finish of the season came at the Open de Espana in April. He missed his next eight cuts following that event ... Only 26 players finished under par on the day ... Defending champion Thongchai Jaidee shot an even-par 71 during his first round and sits in a tie for 27th place.