Rolex Series

Aphibarnrat and Bezuidenhout hit the front at Wentworth

Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Christiaan Bezuidenhout fired a pair of 64s to lead the way at Wentworth Golf Club as the third Rolex Series event of the 2021 Race to Dubai got under way at the BMW PGA Championship.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

The popular Thai found his form in spectacular style early in the day, making seven birdies in eight holes after the turn to get to eight under, and for a long time it looked like he would sit atop the leaderboard on his own after 18 holes.

But Bezuidenhout picked up five shots in four holes on the front nine and then finished with three birdies to join him at the summit and sit one ahead of 2013 Masters Tournament winner Adam Scott.

Another Major Champion in Justin Rose was then at five under as he looks to fight his way onto the Ryder Cup team, alongside fellow home favourite Laurie Canter and Japan's Masahiro Kawamura.

Spanish great Miguel Ángel Jiménez is making his 30th appearance at this event at the age of 57 and he carded a 68 to sit in the group at four under.

Aphibarnrat did not play competitively anywhere in the world for 24 weeks in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and missed 11 of his first 15 cuts worldwide in 2021.

The 32-year-old also struggled in 2019 after suffering a knee injury at the Masters but was delighted to be back in form after carding his lowest European Tour round since the 2017 Italian Open.

"I've had a really hard time the last two years," he said. "Playing with the injury, hurting my right knee after The Masters and then when Covid hit I had to go back to my country and was stuck in the country for eight months - I couldn't play much golf.

"I just want to come up here and enjoy every single minute that I spend on the European Tour, every time I come back it just feels like home. I feel comfortable over here - I see some friends, see my coaches. It's a lovely golf course. I enjoy it every time I come back to Wentworth."

Bezuidenhout finished seventh on the 2020 Race to Dubai after claiming back to back wins on home soil in November and December but has yet to record a top ten in 2021.

The South African feels his game has been in good order, however, and was delighted to get his rewards.

"Everything with my game feels better than a year ago," he said. "But I'm not getting the scores or the results and stuff. I just keep on doing the right things, keep on doing the same things that have obviously been working over the last year.

"I drove the ball lovely today, so I just kept it in play. Gave myself a chance, and the putter was good."

A smart approach into the seventh brought Aphibarnrat his first birdie of the day but he came to life on the tenth, making five birdies in a row thanks to irons to inside ten feet on the tenth, 11th, 13th and 14th and two putts from off the green at the par five 12th.

Another excellent approach into the 16th brought a gain before he took advantage of the 17th and made a smart par save on the last.

Bezuidenhout got the ball rolling with a spectacular chip-in on the fourth and then holed a 25 footer on the fifth and hit smart approaches into the sixth and seventh.

Another long putt on the 13th was cancelled out by a bogey on the 15th but he left himself six feet at the next, two putted from the fringe on the 17th and holed a 40 foot right to lefter on the last.

Scott also had a fast finish with two birdies to take his tally for the day to eight with a single dropped shot as he teed it up at Wentworth for the first time in 16 years.

Playing partner Rose was bogey free in his round, as was Kawamura, while Canter recorded an eagle and five birdies with two bogeys.

Italian Francesco Laporta, Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal and Dutchman Joost Luiten were at four under alongside Jiménez, as was Dane Jeff Winther, who had a hole left to complete when play was suspended due to darkness.

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