Saudi International: Justin Rose seven shots behind Thomas Pieters after first round


Justin Rose hit three birdies and three bogeys in his opening round
Saudi International, first round leaderboard
-7 T Pieters (Bel); -5 Z Lombard (SA), R Paratore (Ita), A Plant (Eng), J Harding (SA), R Fisher (Eng), J McLeod (Aus)
Selected others: -4 C Paisley (Eng); -3 B Dredge (Wal), S Jamieson (Sco), M Southgate (Eng); -2 S Horsfield (Eng), R Ramsay (Sco), I Poulter (Eng); -1 L Westwood (Eng); Level J Rose (Eng)
Full leaderboard

England’s world number one Justin Rose is seven shots off the lead after the first day of the European Tour’s inaugural Saudi International event.

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters carded a seven-under-par 63 and leads by two from a six-man group which includes England’s Ross Fisher and Alfie Plant.

American three-time major winner Brooks Koepka finished on one under par.

“I had the opportunity to hit a lot of shots close to the hole and couldn’t make the putts,” said Rose.

The 38-year-old won his 10th PGA Tour title in San Diego on Sunday but struggled on Thursday with an opening round that included three birdies and three bogeys.

“Collectively our group was probably the worst putting round I’ve seen for three professional golfers in a long, long time, but the greens were very tricky, very, very grainy. It was tough to factor it in,” he said.

“I certainly missed 10 putts probably within six to 10 feet range. You make half of those and it’s a good round of golf.”

Pieters capitalised on hitting his “wedges and short irons really close to the hole”.

The Belgian added: “I think I had maybe 10 good chances for birdie and made seven of them. It was a very good day on the greens.

“If you play in the morning you’re going to have to make a good score. It needs some wind, and with wind, they can tuck the pins away pretty good here. The last eight, nine holes we got a bit of wind, but maybe half a club wind, so it’s not that much.”

The Saudi International has attracted a top-class field despite scrutiny over the country’s human rights record.

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey has placed further attention on the issue.

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