Thursday, 11 January 2018
Branden Grace  (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)

Home favourite Branden Grace is closing in on Chase Koepka's one-shot clubhouse lead following a strong start in his first round at the BMW SA Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni.

Koepka hit one eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys en route to an impressive seven under par 65 to set the target at Glendower Golf Club but South African Grace reeled in a pair of eagles to sit on four under par during an eventful first eight holes.

Grace, the highest ranked player in the tournament at World Number 30, is hoping to become just the second golfer to secure South Africa's three most prestigious events with victory in Ekurhuleni, after player host Ernie Els.

The eight-time European Tour winner started with a streak of par-eagle-birdie to race to three under but bogeys at the fourth and sixth put him back to one under.

However, the 29 year old hit a gain at the seventh before he recorded another eagle at the par five eighth with a lovely putt from 25 feet to put him in contention.

Leader Kopeka opened his round with a bogey but struck back immediately with an eagle at the next before birdies at the fifth, sixth and eighth propelled him to four under at the turn.

A dropped shot at the 10th brought him back to three under hree successive gains from the 12th put Koepka at the top of the leaderboard alongside English pair Chris Paisley and Matt Wallace at six under par and when the World Number 336 birdied the par four 16th, he took the lead.

The American put his tee shot 40 yards short onto the par three 17th green but rescued a par after his lengthy putt reached five feet. Koepka almost extended his lead to two shots on the last but his putt from the fringe missed the left edge of the cup.

Also going well among the late starters is South Africa's Richard Sterne, who opened his round with birdie-birdie-birdie to sit alongside Englishman Aaron Rai and Zimbabwe's Scott Vincent at three under par, while defending champion Graeme Storm sits on two over par at the turn.

Paisley is just one shot adrift in sole second place after briefly taking the lead midway through his round of 66 in South Africa.

The Englishman hit the birdie trail at the 11th, 13th 15th and 16th to nudge in front and turn in 32 on his front nine before further gains at the second and fourth moved him to six under.

He picked up his first dropped shot with a missed putt from eight feet at the seventh before the 31 year old hit back with a birdie at the next from concessional range but spurned the chance to finish his day as co-clubhouse leader after a missed birdie opportunity at the last.

Former Amateur Championship winner Bradley Neil sits on five under following a rollercoaster round of 67.

The Scot stormed to three under after four holes but dropped his first shot at the next. A run of birdie-double-bogey-eagle from the eighth brought him back to three under par before settling for two more gains at the 13th and 16th to move into third place.

England's Matt Wallace, who led the charge for most of the day, finds himself alongside a trio of South Africans Jacques Blaauw and amateur pair Garrick Higgo and Kyle McClatchie and France's Adrien Saddier at four under.

Els finished on one under for the day while compatriot and two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen rolled in five gains on his way to a score of 69.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-21
2GRACE, BrandenRSA18-18
3RITCHIE, JCRSA18-16
T4VINCENT, ScottZIM18-14
T4KRUYSWIJK, JacquesRSA18-14
T4BLAAUW, JacquesRSA18-14

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