Aphibarnrat and Bezuidenhout share early lead at Wentworth

By Sports Desk September 09, 2021

Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Christiaan Bezuidenhout finished eight-under par to share the first-round lead at the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Aphibarnrat, whose last of four European Tour wins came in 2018, produced a magnificent back-nine run of seven birdies in eight holes to finish with a bogey-free 64.

Late starter Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who won two European Tour events in 2020, reached five-under through the front nine before closing with three consecutive birdies to claim joint-top spot.

Former world number one Adam Scott made his first appearance in the European Tour's flagship event since 2006 and sits one shot back in third, a bogey on the 16th his only blemish in an otherwise impressive seven-under 65.

Amid the backdrop of European Ryder Cup team selection, Justin Rose finished two shots behind playing partner Scott to occupy joint-fourth place, knowing victory at Wentworth will guarantee his place to face the United States on September 24.

But the 2016 Olympic champion, who is tied with Laurie Carter and Masahiro Kawamura, is enjoying the pressure and appreciates his Ryder Cup destiny is in his own hands.

"All eyes are on me now, which is great," Rose told Sky Sports. "That is a good start where I can focus on the positive scenario, which is me winning the tournament to get into the team by right.

"That [winning] is obviously Plan A, then Plan B is all of the other stuff.

"I didn't actually appreciate how many scenarios were still in play this week with so many players, so there's a lot to shake out obviously over the next few days."

European captain Padraig Harrington, who completed a level-par first round, will also make three wildcard picks for Whistling Straits, opening chances for the likes of Rose, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia.

Prior to Thursday, Shane Lowry occupied the ninth and final qualifying position for the European Ryder Cup team but the selections will be finalised after the conclusion at Wentworth.

The 2019 Open champion recorded a two-under 70, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger wrestling back four shots with a birdie-eagle finish for his 71 to maintain pressure for the final qualification spot.

Francesco Molinari is out of contention for the Ryder Cup after a poor run of form but record a three-under 69, while defending champion Tyrell Hatton struggled to two-over on day one.

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