Branden Grace and Chase Koepka share SA Open lead
Pre-tournament favourite and Brooks Koepka’s brother both shot opening 65s
Spectators watch as Branden Grace of South Africa plays his second shot on the 18th hole during day one of The BMW South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
South Africa’s Branden Grace lived up to his billing as pre-tournament favourite by claiming a share of the lead after the first round of the BMW SA Open in Johannesburg.
Grace carded three eagles, three birdies and two bogeys in an opening 65 at Glendower Country Club to join American Chase Koepka at the top of the leaderboard on seven under par.
“I can’t remember when, or if, I’ve ever made three eagles in a round but it was fun,” said Grace, who eagled the second, eighth and 15th, all of them par fives.
“I was a little bit rusty with some of the wedge shots but all in all very pleased with the outcome and I think I pretty much got the most out of that round.
“It’s a great start to 2018 and it’s always nice to play back in South Africa. The people are here to support us and it’s great to have all the top South African guys here.”
Koepka, whose brother Brooks won the US Open last year, had set the early clubhouse target after a round containing seven birdies, an eagle and two bogeys, with England’s Chris Paisley a shot off the pace following a 66.
“I think I played flawless except for the second shot to the first hole,” Koepka said. “I hit a poor shot and saved about a 12-footer for bogey there so it was big to start off my round.
“Starting off with a double in a tournament doesn’t feel good; making that bogey I felt like I at least picked up a shot because it could have been worse. Then I hit a nice shot to the second and made eagle and kind of kept it rolling from there.”
Paisley, who is seeking his first European Tour title, said: “I’m really happy coming off five weeks off. You never know how it’s going to go, even though I’ve been playing well in practice.
“I hit a lot of shots really close and didn’t have to hole many long putts, they were all around 10 feet or less. I drove it really well, which gave me a chance to get it close.”
Scotland’s Bradley Neil was part of a four-strong group on five under par after recovering from a double bogey on the ninth with an eagle on the next and two birdies in a back nine of 32.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who blew a four-shot lead with five holes to play in this event three years ago, is four shots off the lead after an opening 69.
Collated first round scores in the European Tour BMW SA Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, Glendower GC, City of Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa (Rsa unless stated, par 72):
65 Chase Koepka (USA), Branden Grace
66 Chris Paisley (Eng)
67 Nacho Elvira (Spa), Erik Van Rooyen, Bradley Neil (Sco), Richard Sterne
68 Jacques Blaauw, Matt Wallace (Eng), Ulrich Van Den Berg, Jacques Kruyswijk, Adrien Saddier (Fra), (a) Kyle McClatchie, Jeff Winther (Den), (a) Garrick Higgo, Tyrone Ferreira
69 Richard Bland (Eng), Charl Schwartzel, Retief Goosen, Adilson Da Silva (Bra), Haydn Porteous, Zack Byrd (USA), Jake Roos, Oliver Fisher (Eng), (a) Matt Saulez, Rourke Van Der Spuy, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Justin Walters, Vaughn Groenewald, Trevor Fisher Jnr
70 Titch Moore, Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Neil Schietekat, Jorge Campillo (Spa), Zander Lombard, Breyten Meyer, Darren Fichardt, Andy Sullivan (Eng), MJ Viljoen, Daniel Van Tonder, Daniel Greene, Jamie Donaldson, Austin Connelly (Can), Dylan Frittelli, Scott Vincent (Zim), Soomin Lee (Kor)
71 Hennie Otto, Lasse Jensen (Den), Anthony Michael, Charlie Ford (Eng), Shaun Norris, Tyrone Ryan, Pep Angles (Spa), Renato Paratore (Ita), Brett Rumford (Aus), Hennie Du Plessis, Ernie Els, Colin Nel, Pedro Oriol (Spa)
72 Morten Orum Madsen (Den), Merrick Bremner, Marcus Armitage (Eng), Garth Mulroy,Jared Harvey, Josh Geary (Nz), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Rhys West, Mark Williams (Zim), Pontus Widegren (Swe), JC Ritchie, Christofer Blomstrand (Swe), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Ashley Chesters (Eng), George Coetzee, Oliver Bekker, David Drysdale (Sco), Ruan De Smidt, Jens Dantorp (Swe)
73 Riekus Nortje, Chris Swanepoel, James Kingston, Makhetha Mazibuko, Heinrich Bruiners, (a) Jovan Rebula, Marc Warren (Sco), Mike Weir (Can), Jean Hugo, Toto Thimba Jnr, Jaco Ahlers, Clement Sordet (Fra), (a) Christo Lamprecht, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Sam Horsfield (Eng), Jordan Smith (Eng), Oliver Farr
74 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Alex Haindl, Daniel Brooks (Eng), Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Julien Guerrier (Fra),Trevor Dodds (USA),Scott Fernandez (Spa), Aaron Rai (Eng), Jonathan Agren (Swe), Jin-ho Choi (Kor), James Morrison (Eng), Jason Scrivener (Aus), Christiaan Basson, Ryan Evans (Eng), Jbe Kruger, Louis De Jager
75 Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Justin Harding, (a) Louis Albertse, Brandon null Stone, Mathias Gronberg (Swe), Graeme Storm (Eng), Ockie Strydom, Rak Cho (Kor), Roberto Lupini, Thomas Detry (Bel), Chris Wood (Eng), Toby Tree (Eng), Andrew Curlewis, Lee Slattery (Eng), Tjaart Van Der Walt, Marthin Scheepers, JJ Senekal, Keith Horne, Ryan Tipping, Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Ross McGowan
76 Keenan Davidse, Matthew Southgate (Eng), Edoardo Molinari (Ita)
77 Thomas Aiken, Andre Nel, Jason Diab, Jacquin Hess, (a) Malcolm Mitchell, Dean Burmester, Andrea Pavan (Ita), Jaco Prinsloo
78 Michiel Bothma, Peter Karmis, Madalitso Muthiya (Zam)
79 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Trevor Immelman, Doug McGuigan (Sco), James Kamte
80 Gregory Havret (Fra), Jean-Paul Strydom
81 Wallie Coetsee, Marc Cayeux (Zim)