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Nienaber and Levy set the early pace at Zebula

Nienaber and Levy set the early pace at Zebula

Wilco Nienaber and Alexander Levy share the lead after a low-scoring opening day of the SDC Open as the Challenge Tour’s 2024 season got underway at Zebula Golf Estate & Spa in South Africa.

Alexander Levy

Levy and Nienaber made the most of perfect conditions on the bushveld layout to each card eight under par rounds of 64 to lead by one shot from Spaniard Angel Ayora, Englishmen Chris Paisley and Tom Shadbolt, South African Malcolm Mitchell and Dutchman Lars van Meijel.

South African Nienaber was one of the early starters and after reaching the turn three under par, added three birdies and an eagle in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to move into the lead.

Levy started his round on the tenth hole and was two under par through three holes before making six birdies in a row from the second to the seventh holes to join Nienaber at the top.

The Frenchman, a five-time winner on the DP World Tour, was pleased with all facets of his game on his first outing of the season.

“I’ve practised really hard the last few weeks out in Dubai, and I’m happy with my game today,” he said. “It’s my first round of the year and I played solid.

“I was hitting it well and putting well, and eight under is always a good score at the end. I kept patient and I started to make birdies from the second hole of my back nine.

“I was pretty aggressive from the tee, hitting drivers, and as I was hitting it well I stayed on the offensive.”

Levy finished 126th in the Race to Dubai Rankings last year to narrowly miss out on retaining his playing rights on the DP World Tour, but as a serial winner he’s targeting a return to golf’s Global Tour at the earliest opportunity.

“Last year was a tough year for me, but it’s nice to keep the memories of winning in your mind and try to believe you can do it again,” he added. “I want to play good golf and I want to get back on the DP World Tour, that’s for sure.

“Today is a good example that my golf is still there and I think I can still shoot a low score. If I follow what I did today I think I’m going to be good at the end of this season.”

Four players share eighth place on six under par including South African duo Matthew Spacey and Kyle Barker, Zimbabwean Benjamin Follett-Smith and Welshman Rhys Enoch.

The second round of the SDC Open gets under way at 6:30am local time with Levy teeing it up alongside Jaco van Zyl and Rupert Kaminski from South Africa at 7:20am.

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