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13th December 2018 | Sunshine Tour

Another 66 sees Bekker lead at Leopard Creek

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Almost incredibly, it was a fifth consecutive six-under-par 66 for Oliver Bekker, and it was good enough to give him a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Thursday.

He made seven birdies and just one bogey to have the edge over Australia’s Dimitrios Papadatos, with Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin a further shot back on four-under. And that is just a week after Bekker racked up four consecutive rounds of 66 to qualify for the Web.com Tour in the United States.

“I left two or three shots out there,” he said, “so it could easily have been a 64 and I would have snapped my streak!”

For a man who was still jetlagged from his flip over the Atlantic and back again, he played remarkably well, with a particularly purple patch coming from the 11th to the 14th where he made four consecutive birdies. “I knocked it close on 11, got it to about six foot and I made it,” he said. “Then, on 12, almost pitched it into the hole, just on the back edge, and I made a good putt there. I two-putted the par-five on 13, and on 14 I had a two-footer for a nice tap-in.

“I hit it really well today. The greens are really firm but I drove it well so I was in fairway most of the time so I could control my ball. I made one or two decent putts, but all in all, I just played solid golf today.”

Equally solid was Papadatos, who only got in to the tournament by invitation. He went round the renovated Leopard Creek without dropping a shot in his five-under 67. “I didn’t realise I was bogey-free but I am pretty happy about it,” he said. “I’m trying to get a bit of form, and after the missed cut last week at the SA Open, it was nice to turn things around.”

Jacquelin is playing the tournament for the first time, and he was thrilled to kick his visit to the course with his four-under. “I don’t know why I never played because the place is unbelievable,” he said. “I played solid, especially the back nine. It was not easy this morning, a lot of wind but I managed to stay patient and to make some birdies on the back nine.”

There were nine players gathered on three-under 69: Scotland’s David Drysdale and Liam Johnston, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, 49-year-old Swede Robert Karlson, Denmark’s Espen Kofstad, Korean Hyowon Park and South Africans Dylan Frittelli, Darren Fichardt and 2016 champion Brandon Stone.

For Bekker, however, there is the tantalising possibility that he can produce yet another 66 in the second round. “I think the changes on this golf course are good for my game,” he said. “I traditionally have not played that great over here but today, I felt like it suits my game a little bit better so I’m looking forward to this week’s got in store.”

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