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Thursday, 29 November 2018
Jake McLeod  (Getty Images)
Jake McLeod (Getty Images)

Jake McLeod moved a step closer to earning his playing privileges on the European Tour as he took a share of the first-round lead at the Australian PGA Championship.

The home favourite has been in brilliant form of late, claiming his first professional win at the NSW Open and then earning a place at The Open Championship with a top-three finish at the Australian Open.

That run has put him at the top of the Order of Merit on the PGA Tour of Australasia and if he maintains that position on Sunday, he will claim his card for the rest of the season.

A bogey-free 66 on day one at RACV Royal Pines Resort moved him to six under alongside countryman Matt Jager and one clear of another Australian in Dimitrios Papadatos and South Korea's Jaewoong Eom.

European Tour Members Adrian Otaegui and Jason Scrivener were then two off the lead alongside World Number 21 Marc Leishman, Mathew Goggin and Douglas Klein.

"I've been playing well," said McLeod. "I've just got to keep on doing what I've been doing. Anything can happen. If one of the other guys wins, obviously they win. So I'll just go do what I can do and see what happens at the end of it.

"The whole game's been pretty good and I've seen a new psychologist six months to a year ago now and the things we've been working on have been really good, so I think that's definitely helped a lot."

McLeod made birdies on the tenth, 12th, 13th and 15th to hit the front on his own but was joined by Jager in spectacular style as the 2010 Australian Amateur champion added to an eagle on the par-five 12th with another three on the par-five 15th.

McLeod jumped out again with a birdie on the second but Jager made a gain on the same hole from eight feet and when he birdied the fourth from similar range, he held the lead.

The lead was tied again when McLeod almost holed his bunker shot on the par-five ninth and while Jager bogeyed the eighth, he hit straight back thanks to a lovely chip on the next.

"The eagles were a bonus," said Jager. "But in saying that, I just made some really nice swings. I put us in a position and just rolled a couple of putts in. You obviously don't expect to do that but that was a bonus."

Eom made birdies on the third, seventh, eighth, ninth, 13th and 17th with a bogey on the 14th, while Papadatos holed out for eagle at the par-four 17th, adding five birdies and two bogeys.

Scrivener continued his fine form after finishing third in Hong Kong last week, birdieing the fourth, hitting a stunning approach into the sixth and getting up and down from sand on the ninth to turn in 33.

The Australian hit the pin out of a bunker on the 12th, holed an 18-footer on the 14th and made the most of the par-five next before a bogey-bogey finish dropped him down the leaderboard.

Starting on the tenth, Otaegui birdied his opening hole but gave the shot straight back before making gains on the 12th, 13th and 15th to turn in 33.

The Spaniard then sandwiched birdies on the third and fourth with bogeys on the second and seventh before picking up a shot on the ninth.

Leishman turned in level par with two birdies and two bogeys but picked up shots on the third, fourth, seventh and ninth, while Goggin had birdies on the second, fourth, ninth and 15th in a bogey-free effort.

Klein bogeyed the fifth and seventh but birdied the eighth, holed a bunker shot for eagle on the ninth and made further gains on the 12th, 17th and 18th.

India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, New Zealander Ryan Fox, Portuguese Ricardo Gouveia and English pair James Morrison and Tom Murray were in the group at three under, a shot clear of defending champion Cameron Smith and England's Andrew Johnston.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1SMITH, CameronAUS18-16
2LEISHMAN, MarcAUS18-14
T3McGOWAN, RossENG18-11
T3MILLAR, MatthewAUS18-11
5EOM, JaewoongKOR18-7
T6SCRIVENER, JasonAUS18-6

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