De Jager sets the pace at Tshwane Open

Updated / Thursday, 1 Mar 2018 18:59

Louis de Jager is the man to catch

South Africa's Louis de Jager claimed a one-shot lead after the opening day of the Tshwane Open as home players looked to continue their dominance of the event.

Initially played at Copperleaf before switching to Pretoria Country Club in 2015, the tournament has produced four South African winners in five years, with George Coetzee, Charl Schwartzel and Dean Burmester the victors at the current venue.

Burmester and Schwartzel are competing at this week's WGC-Mexico Championship instead, but 2015 champion Coetzee is in the field and the pre-tournament favourite carded an opening 67 to lie three off the pace set by compatriot De Jager.

Gavin Moynihan faces a struggle to make the cut after a four-over par 75. Moynihan recorded six bogeys in his first 14 holes before finishing on a positive note with three birdies and a single additional bogey.

De Jager, whose best European Tour result to date came when he finished third in the inaugural Tshwane Open in 2013, birdied three of his last four holes to complete a flawless seven-under 64 and lead by one from Thomas Aiken, Julian Suri and Felipe Aguilar.

"It is a very nice start," world number 547 De Jager said. "It is nice to go off in the morning and then post a score like that so I am very pleased.

"The course is a bit easier than the previous years, because it is a bit softer and the greens are holding much better, but the rough is still up so you've got to hit it straight and that definitely helps. I have been working quite hard on my game so it is nice to see some good results over the last few months."

Coetzee, who has been a member of Pretoria Country Club since he took up the sport, carded five birdies and an eagle on the par-five ninth, but also dropped shots on the second, fifth and 10th.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett, who has slipped to 210th in the world rankings and missed the cut in all three of his events so far this season, is six shots off the pace after two birdies and one bogey in an opening 70.