Herbert hits the front in Vilamoura

Herbert hits the front in Vilamoura

Lucas Herbert equalled the lowest round of his European Tour career to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course.English duo Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace had set the target at seven under in the morning after rounds of 64 and it looked for a long time that they would not be caught in Vilamoura.

But Australian Herbert went one better in a bogey-free 63 to get to eight under, with 2012 champion Shane Lowry also enjoying a productive afternoon to get within one of the lead.

China’s Li Haotong was then at six under, a shot clear of a group of ten players including 2017 Masters Tournament champion Sergio Garcia.

Herbert’s 63 matched his final-round total from the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open where he finished in a tie for third, one of four top tens this season that have helped him to 103rd on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex as he seeks a first full campaign on Tour in 2019.

 “There’s a lot of pressure coming into this time of the year,” he said. “Most of the other guys will probably get more starts than me to finish off the year so there’s probably a bit of pressure on me to play well.

“I think I’ve had that pressure all year and I’ve dealt with it pretty well. Obviously today was a good indication that it’s going alright so hopefully I can just continue that form.

“I’ve probably not played that great and still kept some consistent form, I think that’s the biggest takeaway. I’ve actually played some good golf today and reaped the benefits.”

Wallace got off to a roller coaster start, saving par on the first after taking a drop and then doing the same on the second after going in the water.

A chip-in on the 12th brought an eagle and when the 28 year old followed a birdie on the 15th with a hat-trick of gains from the 18th – ending with another chip-in – he shared the lead.

Li started birdie-birdie-birdie but dropped a shot on the 14th before eagling the par four 15th and making a gain on the 17th. He hit a huge drive down the fourth and a flick-in to the green set up a birdie to get him to six under before he got on the green at the par five fifth in two to lead on his own.

Pepperell had been quietly going about his business, turning in 33 with birdies on the 14th, 15th and 17th, and when he holed a long putt on the fourth to add to gains on the first and second he was just a shot off the lead.

Wallace then joined Li at the top as he followed the 23 year old in making the most of the par five fifth, with Pepperell also following suit for a three-way tie.

Li went over the back of the ninth to drop a shot and it was the English duo who led the way from the morning wave.

Herbert was the man who made the big move reeling them in in the afternoon, birdieing the 11th and 12th, eagling the par four 15th and following that with two further birdies to turn in 30. Another birdie on the third had him in a share of top spot and Lowry soon made it a four-way tie.

 The Irishman made gains on the first, fourth and fifth and when he holed a 15-footer on the seventh he had turned in 31.

A long putt on the tenth moved him to five under but he dropped a shot on the 12th before bouncing back from 18 feet on the next. A nice up-and-down after almost driving the 15th had him within one and a tee-shot to eight feet on the next got him to seven under.

Herbert broke out of that tie to lead alone as he put his tee-shot on the par three 16th to ten feet, while Lowry exited the group the other way after finding the water on the 17th before bouncing back on the last.

Garcia birdied the tenth, 12th, 14th and second to edge his way up the leaderboard but he three-putted from the fringe on the third. Back-to-back birdies on the fifth and sixth were followed by a bogey on the seventh but a stunning tee-shot on the par three eighth had him back at five under.

English trio Ashley Chesters, David Howell and debutant Gian-Marco Petrozzi, French pair Raphaël Jacquelin and Adrien Saddier, Finnish duo Kim Koivu and Mikko Korhonen, Italian Renato Paratore and Australian Jason Scrivener were also three off the lead.

Photo Credits – GETTY IMAGES
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