Sten­son 1 off the lead after 1st round

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - The As­so­ci­ated Press

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of Rory McIl­roy’s ab­sence, Hen­rik Sten­son forged a late charge Thurs­day to put him­self a shot off the lead after the open­ing round of the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge.

Sten­son can clinch the Race to Dubai ti­tle with a vic­tory in South Africa, and three birdies in his last four holes on Day 1 put him in con­tention for that, and a sec­ond Ned­bank ti­tle.

Sten­son opened with a 3-un­der 69, just one be­hind a three­way tie for the lead made up of Felipe Aguilar, Je­unghun Wang and Ross Fisher.

It’s the first year the Ned­bank Chal­lenge forms part of the Euro­pean Tour’s three-tour­na­ment fi­nal se­ries. The Ned­bank fol­lows last week­end’s Turk­ish Air­lines Open, and the sea­son-end­ing World Tour Cham­pi­onship in Dubai is to come next week­end.

McIl­roy, the Race to Dubai win­ner the past two sea­sons, skipped the Turk­ish Air­lines Open and the Ned­bank. McIl­roy is third in the stand­ings be­hind Sten­son and Danny Wil­lett.

In South Africa, Sten­son started with five straight pars and bo­geyed No. 6. He picked up shots at Nos. 8 and 9, but re­ally found his groove at Gary Player Coun­try Club late in his open­ing round.

While the Bri­tish Open cham­pion climbed up the leader­board, Wil­lett was in trou­ble after open­ing with a 3-over 75. The Masters cham­pion had a triple-bo­gey eight on the sec­ond hole, made four other bo­geys, and faces a long haul to get back in con­tention.

At the top, Aguilar set the club­house lead with his 68, drop­ping just one shot and col­lect­ing five birdies. Wang and Fisher matched that later in the af­ter­noon, while Sten­son was one of seven play­ers a shot be­hind the lead­ers.

One of them is Alex Noren, who is the Euro­pean Tour’s in­form golfer and is seek­ing a fourth ti­tle this sea­son.

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