A relaxed Oliver Bekker opened his campaign on Thursday in the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by the R&A at the T-Golf & Country Club in Mallorca with a five-under-par 66 to settle into third place, one shot off the lead.
Bekker was bogey-free in his opening round, with two birdies on the front nine and three on his way home. That had him lining up the leaders, Lukas Nemecz of Austria and Espen Kofstad of Norway. One shot behind Bekker were Ricardo Gouveia of Portugal and Germans Marcel Schneider and Yannick Paul in a share of fourth on four-under.
“This week is really relaxed,” said Bekker who is in eighth place on the Challenge Tour rankings. “I locked my European Tour card up a few weeks ago already, so I can just go out and play with no pressure. It makes it a little bit easier this week.”
Bekker is certain to be one of 20 players who will graduate from the 2021 Challenge Tour campaign onto the European Tour. He is currently projected to finish in seventh from his present position.
Twp shot behind Bekker were Wilco Nienaber and JC Ritchie in a share of seventh on three-under-par. Nienaber is projected to be the last of the 20 graduates from his current position, while Ritchie stays just outside the top 20 in 25th by the current projections.
Jacques Blaauw is projected to stay in 35th from his first-round 69 and a share of 15th, while Hennie du Plessis is projected to drop five places to 33rd after his opening one-under 70 put him in a share of 23rd in the 44-man field.
For Bekker, it is a question of just doing the same thing. “I certainly hope that my game is rounding into shape at the perfect moment,” he said. “The game feels good, but I feel for the other guys. They are really under the gun and it makes things tough for them.”