Bekker shares 1st-round lead at Catalunya Championship

Bekker shares 1st-round lead at Catalunya Championship

Oliver Bekker shot a 6-under 66 to take a share of the first-round lead at the Catalunya Championship on Thursday.

Seeking his first European tour win, the South African made eight birdies and a double bogey at the Stadium Course to finish tied with Jeff Winther and Darren Fichardt.

“Pretty happy,” the 37-year-old Bekker said. “It’s tricky out there, it’s a tough golf course. You just keep your head down and try to hit a good shot every time you step up to hit it. It punishes you if hit it off line out here. You can never relax, that’s the thing around this golf course.”

Winther had one bogey and seven birdies, while Fichardt made eight birdies to go along with a double bogey.

Among those a shot back in a tie for fourth was James Morrison, who was 1-over par on the front nine but rallied with six birdies on his last nine holes. Sebastian Heisele and Haotong Li also shot 67s.

Richard Bland, 49th in the world ranking, is the only top-50 player participating. He finished his round at 1-over par.

Pablo Larrazábal, seeking his third European tour win of the season, was at even-par for the day after making a bogey and an eagle. The Spaniard won last week’s ISPS Handa Championship for his first victory on home soil. He had also won at the MyGolfLife Open in South Africa.

The two new events in Spain were added to the schedule to replace tournaments in Japan and China due to travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Antonio Garrido, a 78-year-old Spaniard who won the inaugural official European tour event held in Girona in 1972, hit the ceremonial tee shot to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the tour.

This is the tour’s first time at PGA Catalunya since Miguel Ángel Jiménez won the 2014 Spanish Open at age 50 to break his own record as oldest tour winner. The venue hosted European qualifying from 2008-2016.

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