The Karlsson surprise package

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It was no surprise to see a Robert Karlsson on top of the Nordea Masters leaderboard at the end of Thursday’s first round.

It was no surprise to see a Robert Karlsson on top of the Nordea Masters leaderboard at the end of Thursday’s first round.

It certainly was a surprise, though, that this Robert Karlsson was 22-year-old Stockholm amateur rather than the seasoned Swedish Ryder Cup player.

While the 41-year-old, internationally-known Karlsson would finish late in the afternoon in contention in an eight-way tie for eighth place at 3-under 69, his little-known amateur namesake, one of the earlier starters, would already be occupying centre stage, sitting atop the leaderboard in a three-way tie for first at 5-under 67

Karlsson, the amateur, was tied for first with fellow Swede Alex Noren and a South African European Tour rookie Jaco van Zyl.

The unheralded young Swede came out at the Bro Hof Slott golf course on Thursday morning and promptly birdied four of his first eight holes.

He then birdied another two by the 15th to top the leaderboard at 6-under with three holes to go.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though.

He dropped two shots with a double bogey at 17, but to his credit, he kept his cool and got one back with his seventh birdie at the 18th.

Noren, one of the pre-tournament favourites and a previous Tour winner, had earlier shot eight birdies, but had lost three shots via a bogey and double bogey.

Van Zyl, who has come onto the European Tour this year via the Tour’s tough Q-School, was the most consistent of the three leaders, shooting three birdies on each nine as against just one bogey.

“That was a great start to the tournament, obviously,” said Karlsson, the younger, playing in only his second European Tour event.

“Ever since I qualified on Monday, I’ve been trying to really enjoy this experience. It’s hard not to smile.”

Van Zyl, who picked up a second in Morocco earlier this year, said: “It was good. Really tough conditions, very good golf course.”

Noren, who birdied five of his first six holes after starting at the tenth, had a slight slump after the turn, but then had a run of three birdies over the closing stretch, was delighted with his round.

“It was great, the first few holes were unbelievable,” said Noren, who won his second European Tour title in Wales earlier this year.

“It felt so much easier than it has ever felt, then it got really tough on the front nine.

“I was really nervous going into today – in front of all your family and friends and they want to see if you can play or if you’re out there because your lucky.But it turned out to be great fun. It’s a great start and in this weather it was pretty tough.”

Another Swede, Niklas Lemke, was joined by England’s John Parry, Italian Lorenzo Gagli and Spaniard Alfredo Garcia-Heredia on four under, with pre-tournament favourite Karlsson one of eight players a shot further back.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

67 Robert Karlsson (Swe), Alexander Noren (Swe), Jaco Van Zyl (Rsa)

68 John Parry, Niklas Lemke (Swe), Alfredo Garcia-Heredia (Spa), Lorenzo Gagli (Ita)

69 Pontus Widegren (Swe), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Anthony Wall, Scott Hend (Aus), Richard Finch, Pablo Martin (Spa)

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