Van Rooyen starts European Tour finale with a 68

Dec 10, 2020 | Featured, South Africans abroad

Erik van Rooyen got the good start he needed on Thursday when he carded a four-under-par 68 in the opening round of the European Tour finale, the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

He made just a single birdie on the touch Earth Course to tuck into a share of second place behind the first-round leader, Victor Perez of France. Van Rooyen made five birdies to be one back together with Robert Macintyre of Scotland and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.

The 28-year-old Perez started the week sixth on the Race to Dubai but finished the day on course to become the first French player to end the year as European number one. He saw an early birdie on the second cancelled out by a dropped shot on the fourth, but picked up further gains on the seventh and 10th.

The 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship winner then converted a 30-footer on the 11th, holed a five wood from off the green on the 14th and drained another lengthy birdie effort on the 17th.

“As always on these tough courses, tough pins today, they really put up a good setup with some of the pins,” said Perez, who has twice finished as a runner-up in Rolex Series events this season.

“It was just about holing a few good putts, driving the ball well, doing everything fairly well but obviously making a few putts, which you need those type of days.

“In the position I’m in, I have nothing to lose. I have everything to gain. So for me it’s really a going-for-it mentality that I have to keep for four rounds. Obviously you still have to play proper golf and hit the right shots and sometimes take your medicine, but again, I have really nothing to lose, and it’s a matter of making a lot of birdies.”

Van Rooyen is projected to climb to fourth from 10th on the Race to Dubai if he stays in his current position. The leader of the Race to Dubai is currently Patrick Reed, but only a win would guarantee the American top spot come Sunday. With 2,000 points of the 12,000 points available going to the winner, there is still a mathematical chance that any of the leading 60 available players on the Race to Dubai standings, and even Joost Luiten in 72nd position, could be crowned Race to Dubai champion.

Next best of the South Africans in the field was Garrick Higgo after signing for a two-under 70, while George Coetzee and Christiaan Bezuidenhout were on one-under 71. Shaun Norris and Branden Grace were level after the first round, Brandon Stone one-over, Dean Burmester four-over, Justin Harding five-over and Wilco Nienaber brought up the rear of the 65-man field on seven-over.

With three rounds still to go, Bezuidenhout is in a great spot, provided he can keep his incredible form from the past two weeks going. He finished in a tie for 12th during his tournament debut at the DP World Tour Championship last year, and could finish a stand-out season as European number one if he were to win for a third consecutive week – provided Reed doesn’t finish second.

With reporting from The European Tour

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