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De Jager makes fast start in Portugal

De Jager makes fast start in Portugal

Louis de Jager found his form at the perfect moment as he shot the lowest round of his European Tour career to set the clubhouse target on day one of the Portugal Masters.

Louis de Jager

The South African had made just two of his last 11 cuts to sit at 123rd on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex and needed a strong finish at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course to have a chance of maintaining his playing privileges for 2020.

But he is used to pressure having come through the Qualifying School and made eight birdies in a blemish free 63 to get to eight under and lead by two from fellow bubble boys Oliver Fisher, Jake McLeod and Justin Walters.

The top 115 on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex are guaranteed a card for next season and Englishman Fisher and South African Walters were marginally on opposite sides of that line coming into the week, while Australian McLeod needs a top two finish to have a chance of staying on Tour.

Fisher carded the first ever 59 in European Tour history at this event last season and Walters also has a history in Vilamoura, draining a monster putt on the last in 2013 to keep his card.

Darren Fichardt, Sihwan Kim and Jeunghun Wang are all fighting for their cards this week and they were five under alongside David Horsey, Renato Paratore and Matthew Southgate.

De Jager made a flying start with birdies on the tenth and 12th and hat-trick from the 14th to turn in 31.

The 32-year-old made a gain on the second but his lead was still just one shot before he made a two putt birdie on the par five fifth and holed a 25 footer on the par three next to jump three ahead.

Walters entered the week 121st on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex and after birdies on the 11th and 14th helped him turn in 34, he put an approach to five feet on the second and picked up further shots on the third, fifth and ninth to get within two.

Fisher started the week nine places above Walters and a hat-trick of gains from the 12th provided a perfect start. He dropped a shot on the 16th but another gain came on the 18th before excellent approaches to the third and ninth sandwiched a good tee shot at the par three sixth. 

McLeod was bogey free with gains on the second, fifth, seventh, 12th, 14th and 17th.

Alejandro Cañizares and Jack Singh Brar need a good week and they were at four under alongside 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn and English trio Ashley Chesters, Sam Horsfield and Matt Wallace.

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