Branden Grace makes three eagles at BMW SA Open to share early lead
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 12/01/18 4:39pm
Branden Grace enjoyed an eagle frenzy on the opening day of the BMW SA Open at Glendower GC near Johannesburg, as he earned a share of the first-round lead with Chase Koepka.
Grace achieved the rare feat of making three eagles in a single round and also made three birdies in a seven-under 65 which matched the earlier score of Koepka, brother of reigning US Open champion, Brooks.
Koepka, who earned his full European Tour card for the first time having finished ninth in the Challenge Tour rankings last season, made a nervy start on Thursday with a bogey at the first hole but hit back with an eagle at the next.
The American then picked up three further shots on the outward nine to turn in 32 and, after another dropped shot at the 10th, he made four birdies in five holes from the 12th before two closing pars gave him the early lead in the clubhouse.
"I think I played flawless, except for the second shot on the first hole," said Koepka. "I hit a poor shot there and saved it with a 12-footer for a bogey. I made eagle on the second hole and kind of kept it going from there.
"Inside 150 yards, I was really good today. I didn't have too many shots from inside 150, but every one that I had, I was hitting them close. The putter was really hot on the front nine and then I had a bunch of short putts on the back nine which helped a little bit."
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Koepka looked set to retain the outright lead until Grace delighted the locals outside the ropes, rolling in eagle putts at the second and eighth while also making two birdies and a pair of bogeys in a colourful, outward 32.
The 29-year-old kept his momentum flowing with a birdie at the 10th, and he holed from just outside 20 feet for yet another eagle at the long 15th to haul himself level with Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.
The leaders ended the day one shot ahead of England's Chris Paisley, who got his year off to an encouraging start with seven birdies and just one blemish in his confident 66.
Bradley Neil carded a 67 which included a superb hole-out for eagle from the fairway at the 477-yard 10th, and the young Scot is among a group of four players on five under with last year's Open de Portugal champion Matt Wallace one further off the pace.
Two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen fired a creditable three-under 69, while Jamie Donaldson had the honour of making the first live televised hole-in-one of the year at the 14th as the former Ryder Cup star recovered from two over after 10 holes to return an entertaining 70.
Tournament host Ernie Els found the going tough but still managed to offset three bogeys with four birdies in a 71, but defending champion Graeme Storm faces a battle to make the weekend after he struggled to a disappointing 75.