South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat produced scorching eight-under-par opening rounds in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Thursday.
For a long time, it looked like Aphibarnrat 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 champion Adam Scott.
“Everything with my game feels better than a year ago,” said Bezuidenhout. “But I’m not getting the scores or the results. 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. I gave myself a chance, and the putter was good.”
Aphibarnrat, who secured his PGA Tour card for next season via the Korn Ferry Tour last week, started the back nine with five straight birdies. The Thai picked up further shots on the 16th and 17th.
“I had a really hard time the last two years playing with injury, hurting my right knee after the Masters, and then when Covid hit I was stuck in my country for eight months and couldn’t play much golf,” Aphibarnrat said.
“When I came back out I just couldn’t get the rhythm to play a golf tournament. I get nerves to go on the first tee, I don’t know how to move the ball. I didn’t feel comfortable on the golf course at all.
“After I get my Tour card back from the Korn Ferry finals it just loosened me up so I feel free to play my own game.”
Scott enjoyed a trip down memory lane with a seven-under-par round, while playing partner Justin Rose bolstered his case for Ryder Cup selection with an opening round of 67 to finish on five-under, alongside fellow Englishman Laurie Canter and Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura.
Scott only made the trip across the Atlantic after an early exit from the first FedEx Cup playoff event brought an end to his PGA Tour season.
“I’ve been feeling like I’ve been playing well and that’s one of the reasons why I came here this week,” said Scott. “I didn’t have anything to play in the last couple of weeks, so I felt like this was a great opportunity to come and play a really good event and bring back good memories from early days in my career.”
Rose can qualify automatically for the Ryder Cup with a win on Sunday but is also among the favourites to receive a wildcard from European captain Padraig Harrington. He got off to a great start with a bogey-free round containing birdies on the second, fifth, sixth, 12th and 18th.
“It’s obviously a really nice start for the tournament. It gives me the opportunity now to sink in my teeth and focus on what I should be focusing on,” said Rose, who had his manager Paul McDonnell on the bag after his regular caddie tested positive for coronavirus.
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