Joakim Lagergren leads the way in South Africa

Mark McGowan
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Joakim Lagergren (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Joakim Lagergren carded an excellent bogey-free round of 65 to take a one-shot lead after day one of the DP World and Sunshine Tour’s co-sanctioned Investec South African Open Championship.

One of the most consistent performers on the DP World Tour in recent years, the Swede is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2023 season and looked back to his best at Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate.

He carded seven birdies in his lowest round since March to lead the way from local favourite Casey Jarvis, with 2015 champion Andy Sullivan and home favourites Louis de Jager and Jovan Rebula at five under.

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Lagergren finished in the top 100 on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex for eight consecutive seasons after graduating from the Qualifying School for the third time in 2014.

An ankle injury in the summer hindered his play last season as he finished 170th and a sixth career trip to Q School was unsuccessful, resulting in a medical exemption for the Opening Swing which he is looking to make the most of.

“Golf was fun today,” he said. “It is a tough course, it’s long so to shoot seven under around here, I’m very pleased with that.

“We had a par-three today which 240 metres, I’m not sure if I’ve experienced that before. It is long, you very rarely get wedges into par fours.

“If you’re playing well, you’re going to hit a lot of greens so it’s pretty good to have control with the putter. Lag putting is going to play a huge part this week when you’re going to hit a lot of greens but be maybe 20 metres way. I did that well today.

“It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve been in contention so I’m looking forward to it.”

The longest course in DP World Tour history, Blair Atholl contains five par fives, with four of them playing over 600 yards, and Jarvis birdied every one in the opening round.

Starting on the back nine, he made the most of the tenth and 13th and then dropped a shot on the 16th before making a gain on the par-three 17th.

The par-five 18th, first and fifth brought more joy before another gain on a par three at the sixth put him on top of the leaderboard.

He was alone there for a long time but Lagergren was the man to catch him late in the afternoon.

The 32-year-old also started on the tenth and he turned in 33, picking up a brace of birdies from the 13th and 17th.

Another gain on the second had him in a share of second and when he holed a lengthy left-to-righter on the seventh, he was six under.

A putt of around 30 feet from of the front of the green at the next then got him to seven under and into the solo lead.

Englishman Sullivan made a birdie-birdie start before hitting smart approaches into the fourth and seventh and chipping in on the eighth to turn in 30.

He found water on the 12th but hit back with an up-and-down on the 13th to rejoin De Jager and Rebula.

Rebula – a former Amateur Championship winner and nephew of Ernie Els – birdied the par-five tenth, 18th and fifth, adding further gains on the 15th, 17th and seventh with a dropped shot on the 14th.

The highlight of De Jager’s round was an eagle on the fifth, with five birdies and two bogeys also contributing to his 67.

There was a group of ten players at four under including December 2020 champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout and four-time DP World Tour winner Matteo Manassero.

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