European Tour

SA duo Bekker, Fichardt share lead at Catalunya Championship

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Oliver Bekker. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
Oliver Bekker. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

South African golfers Oliver Bekker and Darren Fichardt share the lead after Thursday's opening round of the Catalunya Championship in Girona.

Fichardt and Denmark's Jeff Winther had made late charges to join Bekker at the top of the leaderboard.

Bekker set the target at six-under with a 66, and as the wind got up in the afternoon, it did not look like he would be caught at PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness.

But compatriot Fichardt reeled off six birdies in eight holes after the turn to pass him, only for a double-bogey on the last to drop him back alongside Bekker and Winther, who made four birdies in five holes from the 11th.

German Sebastian Heisele, China's Li Haotong and Englishman James Morrison shared second spot at five-under, while South Africa's Hennie du Plessis was a shot further back alongside four others.

Leading first-round scores from the Catalunya Championship in Girona on Thursday (par 72/GBR & IRL unless stated):

66 - Oliver Bekker (RSA), Darren Fichardt (RSA), Jeff Winther (DEN)

67 - Sebastian Heisele (GER), James Morrison, Li Haotong (CHN)

68 - Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (FRA), Hennie du Plessis (RSA), Adri Arnaus (ESP), Julien Brun (FRA), Lukas Nemecz (POL)

69 - Daniel Gavins, Nicolai Hojgaard (DEN), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Thomas Bjorn (DEN), David Drysdale, Justin Walters (RSA), Ricardo Gouveia (POR), Richard McEvoy

Bekker is a European Challenge Tour graduate and has full playing privileges on the DP World Tour for the first time this season.

The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner has five top-10s from nine starts, including a career-best tie for third at the Steyn City Championship.

"I'm pretty happy, it's tricky out there, it's a tough golf course and you are just keeping your head down and trying to hit a good shot every time you step out there," he told the DP World Tour's official website.

"It punishes you if you hit it off line so very, very happy. If you get a little bit off line, as I did on the tenth and made a double, you are going to get punished.

"You can never relax, that’s the thing around this golf course."

Fichardt, who boasts five wins on the DP World Tour, was also chuffed with his efforts.

"I played really solid," he said. "I know it is a tough golf course, you have to keep the ball in play off the tee and make sure you get chances."

Fichardt arrived in Girona after a top-10 finish at last week's ISPS Handa Championship in Spain.

"Last week I hadn't played well in quite a while, I had injuries at the beginning of the year so I took three weeks off in South Africa and I came and played really well but my confidence was low so I was playing quite protective golf last week, just wanted to get a good result and I did that.

"This week is pretty similar sort of game playing, very defensive golf course. Last week and this week, you can’t attack, you can’t be too aggressive, you have to be very patient and accept the fact that you are going to make mistakes. Try to get on the fairway and try to get in the hole."


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