Belgium’s Thomas Pieters produced a masterful seven under par round of 63 to open up a two-shot lead on the opening day of the inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA.
The three-time European Tour winner carded seven birdies as he tamed a majestic Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) to lead a chasing pack of six players by two shots.
“I hit my wedges and short irons really close to the hole. I think I had maybe ten good chances for birdie and made seven of them. It was a very good day on the greens as well. It’s tricky because the greens are not that fast. I think I did everything pretty well and my game is pretty decent,” said Pieters, before adding ominously for his title contenders in Saudi: “I haven’t clicked all the right parts together yet.”
Among the chasing pack are English duo Alfie Plant and Ross Fisher, South African pair Zander Lombard and Justin Harding, Italian Renato Paratore and Australian Jake McLeod. Plant, playing on a championship invite, had set the early pace after a superb run of seven birdies in eight holes to finish his front nine of 28 after starting on the tenth tee. The former Walker Cup player went on to drop two shots in his final four holes to slip back to the group on five under par.
“I didn’t realise I was on 28 until I came in,” said Plant. “I’ve never shot 28 before on the front nine or back nine and I enjoyed it. I was hitting them close. I holed one from 30 feet early on and everything was inside six feet. The wind definitely got up through our back nine.”
Reigning Masters Champion Patrick Reed made a steady start with a three under par round of 67, while the world’s top three players, Justin Rose (70), Brooks Koepka (69) and Dustin Johnson (68) have some ground to make up on Pieters.