Coetzee takes first-round lead in Qatar

BERNIE MCGUIRE
Last updated 07:35 23/01/2014

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George Coetzee of South Africa needed just 21 putts to shoot an 8-under-par 64 for a one-shot lead on the opening day of the Qatar Masters on Wednesday.

Coetzee eagled the par-5 10th hole and birdied his closing three holes in a round that was just two shots more than his best on the European Tour, a 62 which equalled the Old Course record at St. Andrews in Scotland 15 months ago.

"I was quite lucky to get away with a few shots," he said. "There's a lot of luck involved in this game, especially the way I play, and I had 21 putts with a three-putt, so that goes to show."

On 7 under were Dawie Van Der Walt, among five South Africans in the top 13, and Steve Webster of England, who began in spectacular manner by holing a 254-yard, 5-wood second shot for an albatross at his opening hole, the 548-yard, par-5 10th.

There were only two spectators around the green, and one of them was jumping up and down and pointing in a downward motion.

"I didn't know whether he was inferring it had gone over the back of the green and onto rocks, but then when I got up there he starts clapping," Webster said.

"I've never been 3 under after one hole before, so it was all a bit strange after that. You start thinking is this my day, or have I had all my luck on the first?"

It was the second albatross in three events this year, whereas there was just one on the tour in 2013.

Webster, who celebrated his 39th birthday last Friday, picked up five birdies over his next 12 holes to lead on 8 under, then dropped a shot at his 15th.

Four players were in fourth place on 6 under, while the former British Open-winning trio of Ernie Els, John Daly and Scotland's Paul Lawrie were among a group at 5 under.

Els ended the first round in his 25th anniversary pro career season holing a 35-yard bunker shot on 18 for eagle.

"That was a dream finish, that's always going to put a smile on your face," said Els, the 2005 Qatar winner. "I played quite nicely all day but didn't quite get my share of putts, so that bunker shot at the last really made up for everything."

Lawrie also had an eagle, on the 16th, while Daly birdied his first three holes and two of his closing three.

"I've started off this year putting really, really well, and just made three bombs to start with today," Daly said. "But I just got into trouble a couple of times with the driver, so it was my putting that kept me in there."

Henrik Stenson bounced back from missing the halfway cut last week in Abu Dhabi with a 68. U.S. PGA champion Jason Dufner, competing in Qatar for the second year running, carded 70.

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A 30-minute delay due to fog at the start of the day meant three players were unable to complete the round due to darkness.

- AP

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