Dylan Frittelli, Joel Girrbach and Jesper Svensson will share the lead heading into the weekend at the Bahrain Championship after a day of devilishly tough scoring at Royal Golf Club.
High, gusting winds in the Kingdom of Bahrain made for a difficult day for the field and Swiss Girrbach set the target at nine under as he followed his opening 65 with a 70.
Swede Svensson then joined him at the summit with a 65 that was the lowest round of the day by two shots before South African Frittelli birdied his final hole in a 68 to make it a trio at the top.
Spaniard Alejandro del Rey was at eight under after a 70, one shot clear of French duo Julien Guerrier and Tom Vaillant, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Australian Harrison Endycott and South Africa’s Ockie Strydom.
After winning twice on the DP World Tour in 2017, Frittelli claimed his PGA Tour card a year later as he went on to win in his rookie campaign stateside.
But after enduring a difficult 2023 in which he missed the cut or withdrew from 23 of his 27 starts on the PGA Tour, the 33-year-old has taken up a route back onto the DP World Tour for those who finished outside the top 125 on the FedExCup Fall Points List.
“I’m super excited to be in contention again,” he said. “I’m really proud of the way I played, I kept it in the fairway, kept it on the greens. I didn’t putt too well today but hopefully I can rectify that on the weekend.”
Svensson may have turned professional nearly five years ago, winning on the Nordic Golf League in 2020, but his big breakthrough came last year with his victory at the B-NL Challenge Trophy on the European Challenge Tour.
He also achieved three second-places as he finished fifth on the Road to Mallorca and has continued to catch the eye, finishing second at the Investec South African Open Championship this season in just his sixth DP World Tour start.
“It was tough out there,” he said. “I set from the beginning to play quite conservative and we were playing for the big targets. For the first part of the round it felt like every time I had the putter it had a chance of going in so it was nice.”
Girrbach’s road to the DP World Tour has been longer, with the 30-year-old establishing himself as a Challenge Tour regular since turning professional in 2015 and finishing 17th on last season’s Road to Mallorca to gain full playing privileges for the first time.
He finished 20th last week after missing his first three cuts of the season and is relishing having the chance to establish himself on the DP World Tour.
“The DP World Tour has been my goal for the past eight years so I just enjoy it now I’m here,” he said. “I played well at the back end of last year on the Challenge Tour and I’m just enjoying it now I’m here. Trying to give my best.
“I’m happy with it. It was a brutal start with two bogeys in the wind. It was a tough one early in the morning but I stayed patient and I’m happy with that finish.”
Girrbach had that nightmare start with bogeys at the 1st and 2nd but hit a smart approach into the 4th and two-putted the 6th from 113 feet after driving the par four to get back level on the day.
More nice wedge work set up gains at the 9th and 10th but he bookended those with bogeys at the 8th and 11th before putting a pair of approaches to around 10 feet in a birdie-birdie finish.
Starting at the 10th, Svensson played a remarkable second from the desert to tap-in range for an opening birdie and that set the tone.
He got up and down after finding a cart path on the par-five 13th and then eagled the par-five next after putting his second to seven feet.
A tidy approach to the 15th had him five under through 6 and when he holed a long putt at the 17th and nine-footer on the 1st, he was in a share of the lead.
A three-putt at the 8th brought his only blemish of the day but he got up and down at the par-five 9th for what may be one of the rounds of the season.
Frittelli made a two-putt birdie on the 14th and left himself just four feet at the 17th before making a gain on the 3rd after laying up.
He gave a shot back on the 4th but put his tee-shot to five feet on the 7th and got up and down on the last for a closing birdie.
Del Rey made a two-putt gain on the 9th, holed a 37-footer on the 12th and got up and down after a poor tee-shot on the 13th to join the lead before bogeying the last after finding the sand.
Guerrier was the only bogey-free player in the field in a 67, while Donaldson and Endycott shot rounds of 68, Strydom carded a 71 and 18-hole leader Vaillant signed for 73.
– Report from DP World Tour website
Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images