February 25, 2021, 22:42

PGA Tour: Sepp Straka shares lead in Dominican Republic, Graeme McDowell five behind

PGA Tour: Sepp Straka shares lead in Dominican Republic, Graeme McDowell five behind

Sepp Straka is in a four-way share of the lead

Austria’s Sepp Straka is one of four players tied for the first-round lead at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

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Straka was the first player on the day to fire a seven-under 65, a score later matched by the American trio of Hudson Swafford, Scott Harrington and Tyler McCumber on a blustery day in the Dominican Republic.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell got off to a steady start with a two-under 70 along with no-fewer than 30 other players, including his former Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell opened with a 70

Straka was the only player in the leading quartet to enjoy a bogey-free round, making five birdies and an eagle at the fourth, while China’s Xinjun Zhang and American Joseph Bramlett head the chasing pack on six under.

Former US Amateur champion Ricky Barnes is one of 10 players tied for seventh after opening with a 67, while rising Belgian star Thomas Detry birdied three of the last four holes to card a 68.

Scottish veteran Martin Laird is on three under along with Straka’s fellow Austrian and Ryder Cup hopeful Matthias Schwab, with McDowell one further back after a quiet, three-birdie opener.

Kelly Kraft finished his 68 with a hole-in-one

But there was nothing quiet about the finish for Kelly Kraft, apart from the lack of fans around the ninth green as he followed an eagle at the seventh – his 16th – with a hole-in-one at his final hole – his third ace since the start of the 2017/18 PGA Tour season.

Kraft had been struggling on one over through 11 holes, but his spectacular finish began with back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth and ended with a perfect 204-yard eight-iron disappearing into the cup for his final shot of the day.

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