The Norwegian won the Rankings in 2012 after securing victory in the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, and after carding an opening six under par round of 65 which included a hole-out eagle, five birdies and a bogey at T Golf & Country Club, he got off to the perfect start in his quest to replicate history.
Nemecz posted seven birdies and a bogey to move alongside Kofstad, and with both men having already secured their European Tour playing privileges for the 2022 season, sitting ninth and tenth in the Rankings respectively, they will be looking to finish as high on the Road to Mallorca as possible to maximise their starts next year.
South African Oliver Bekker sits one shot further back in third place after a bogey-free round of 66, while Road to Mallorca Number Two Ricardo Gouveia shares fourth place with German duo Marcel Schneider and Yannik Paul. Gouveia is another man looking to enter the history books with a second Grand Final and Rankings triumph, after he achieved the same feat in 2015 by winning the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman and finishing the year as Challenge Tour Number One.
Eight players share seventh place on three under par, including South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber, Road to Mallorca Number Four Julien Brun and Swede Jesper Svensson.
Espen Kofstad: “I’m very happy. I was super solid all day. It took a while to get started and then the back nine was amazing.
“The course is really nice. It is playing very different to the practice rounds days now that the green speed is up and they are getting a little bit firmer due to the wind. If there is no rain, it will be a phenomenal test on Sunday.
“It’s nice not having to worry about securing my European Tour card. In 2012, I had no idea I had a chance to win the Rankings so when I came off the course and got told I had won both the tournament and the Rankings it was a very nice surprise.
“I’m feeling in perfect condition, I have been all season. I haven’t had any issues which has been lovely.”
Lukas Nemecz: “I’ve got nothing to complain about. I had one bogey but that was on ten and it nearly feels like a par five. Seven birdies, that was a good thing today.
“The wind picked up but luckily it felt like it dropped on the back nine when you’re playing more in the trees. The course played very nicely today. It’s still soft and even if you missed the fairway you could still get some spin on.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to next year already. That’s the main goal on Challenge Tour, to move up to the European Tour.”
Ricardo Gouveia: “I’m very happy. I had a bogey early on but I knew I had to stay patient and the birdies were going to come. I was hitting the ball well. I’m happy with the round, I made some birdies around the turn, had a good chance on 18 but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. I’m looking forward to the next few days.
“There’s 54 holes left, it’s a lot of golf. Even nine holes in a tournament is massive. There’s a long way to go so I’m not even thinking about winning the Rankings. I’m going to stay away from social media as much as I can this week and just focus on what I need to do.
“It’s much more relaxing for us guys who have already locked the cards in. It’s a completely different pressure. I wouldn’t want to be fighting for that Tour card. I’ve been in that position on the European Tour and it’s not pleasant so I’m happy to be fighting for a different goal this week.”
Scores after round one
65 E KOFSTAD (NOR), L NEMECZ (AUT),
66 O BEKKER (RSA),
67 Y PAUL (GER), M SCHNEIDER (GER), R GOUVEIA (POR),
68 J LANDO CASANOVA (FRA), J KENNEGARD (SWE), H STUREHED (SWE), J SVENSSON (SWE), U COUSSAUD (FRA), J RITCHIE (RSA), W NIENABER (RSA), J BRUN (FRA),
69 B HELLGREN (SWE), J BLAAUW (RSA), F MORY (FRA), D HILLIER (NZL), H LEON (CHI), E FERGUSON (SCO), A GARCIA-HEREDIA (ESP), M HELLIGKILDE (DEN),
70 M MANASSERO (ITA), N KRISTENSEN (DEN), H DU PLESSIS (RSA), J DANTORP (SWE), A PLANT (ENG), J THOMSON (ENG), A HIDALGO (ESP), C HANNA (USA),
71 S MANLEY (WAL), I CANTERO GUTIERREZ (ESP), B WINDRED (AUS), K ULENAERS (BEL), M HOEY (NIR), M SIEM (GER), F LACROIX (FRA),
72 N M?LLER (DEN), D HUIZING (NED), C HOWIE (SCO), S TARRIO (ESP),
73 N REGNER (AUT), K JOHANNESSEN (NOR),
74 H LONG (GER),
75 A WILSON (ENG),