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Hebert leaves it late to lead in Kenya

Hebert leaves it late to lead in Kenya

Benjamin Hebert birdied the last to take the first round lead at the 2021 Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker.

Benjamin Hebert

The Frenchman had been part of an eight-man group before making his three on the par four 18th.

The 34-year-old, looking for a first European Tour win in his 218th event, bogeyed the opening hole at Karen Country Club.

However, he bounced straight back with a birdie at the short second and added a hat-trick of gains from the fifth.

Another birdie on the 11th was followed by an eagle from 15 feet at the long 12th, before Hebert's late gain gave him a seven under par 64 and separated him from the chasing pack.

“It was a fantastic day,” said Hebert. “I played very solid all day long. It’s been a long time since it has been like this. 

“I played well all day, so I’m very happy.

“My strategy worked well. I didn’t play too aggressive or hit many drivers. In the morning it’ll be a little bit wetter, so maybe we can be more aggressive with the pins, we’ll see tomorrow.”

Hebert's compatriot Raphaël Jacquelin was among those tied for second on six under, alongside England's Sam Horsfield, Poland's Adrian Meronk, German Bernd Ritthammer, Finland's Kalle Samooja and Scottish pair Calum Hill and Connor Syme.

India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, South African Justin Harding, American Julian Suri and England's Matthew Southgate and Dale Whitnell were then at five under on a congested leaderboard.

Jacquelin had made only three cuts since the start of 2020 coming into this week, but rolled back the years with six birdies against a single dropped shot.

“(Qatar) was my first cut in a long time,” he said. “I haven’t played that great over the last two years. It’s good to be back, I feel a bit of confidence. 

“If you putt, it’s a lot easier – that's what I did last week and today. Let’s keep that going and have some fun – fun is the key, I haven’t had a lot of that over the last two years, so we’ll try and get that first.”

Horsfield was playing his first event of the year after suffering an injury in Cyprus towards the end of last season.

“I tore a disc in my back in Cyprus at the end of last year,” he said. “Then I was just getting treatment and stuff like that and I didn’t feel like I was ready for the Middle East.

“It’s nice to be back out here with the boys competing.”

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