Andrew Johnston credited a new, carefree attitude after carding a flawless 66 in the first round of the BMW International Open.
Johnston recorded six birdies and no bogeys at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried to finish a shot behind Australia’s Wade Ormsby, who also kept a clean card as he posted a seven-under-par 65.
England’s Sam Horsfield, Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura and Spain’s Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez were also seven under when play was suspended for the day due to the threat of lightning. The first round will resume at 7.30am on Friday.
Eleven months ago, Johnston walked off the course after just nine holes of the British Masters as he struggled to cope with the European Tour’s strict biosecure bubble and his own high expectations.
The 32-year-old had previously opened up about the mental health struggles that followed his rapid rise to fame, his ready smile, trademark beard and nickname ‘Beef’ making him a fan favourite and leading to sponsorship deals in the United States, including burger restaurant Arby’s.
This season also got off to a rough start when Johnston was withdrawn from the Abu Dhabi Championship after being identified as a close contact of someone who had tested positive for Covid-19, but he finished fourth in the Canary Islands and 17th on his return to the British Masters last month.
“It’s been interesting, it’s been difficult this year,” Johnston said.
“It was probably the most I ever prepared for the Middle East events and then I got locked in the room in Abu Dhabi, which made it very difficult and I felt like I had taken two or three steps backwards from there, and that was hard.
“Then after a big break going into the Canary Islands, I was really happy coming out the way I played those four events, finishing at the British Masters.
“Today was a solid round of golf, always a nice feeling to come off bogey-free. I’ll take a 66 any day. Patience was the key. I played well and it’s easy to go chasing.
“I just ticked along and hit the ball, found it, see what we had. Just played like that. Very carefree and that’s the way I want to try to play every round.”
Ormsby made the long journey from Torrey Pines to Munich after finishing 40th in last week’s US Open and admitted he was battling the jet lag and nine-hour time difference.
“I was definitely upside down yesterday,” Ormsby said. “I got a few hours’ sleep last night, so I feel much better today but yesterday I thought I was going to be in trouble for the week but somehow it sorted itself out.”
US Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen completed a two-under-par 70 shortly before play was suspended, while Viktor Hovland – who withdrew midway through his second round at Torrey Pines with an eye injury – returned a 68.
“I couldn’t use my eye as an excuse today, even though I had some bad play early on,” Hovland said. “My body feels great, I think I’m getting over the jet lag. It’s going.
“I felt like I hit the ball well today, but I had some bad shots in there and they happened to be on the par fives or the drivable par fours. I hit them in the water, which you just can’t do out here. There’s a lot of birdies out there but if you keep hitting it in the water it’s going to be hard to shoot well.”