Pieters satisfied with opening round

31 January 2019 13:35:36 EST

Belgium's Thomas Pieters declared himself pleased with a bogey-free round of 63 which gave him a two-shot lead at the inaugural Saudi International.

His seven-under-par round leaves him two clear of six players including England's Ross Fisher and Alfie Plant.

Pieters hit seven birdies at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club to set the pace and said he was especially pleased with his wedge and short iron play.

I had the opportunity to hit a lot of shots close to the hole and couldn't make the putts.

Justin Rose

He said afterwards: "I think I had maybe 10 good chances for birdie and made seven of them. I think I did everything pretty well today."

Pieters is a three-time champion on the European Tour but hasn't won an event since the Made in Denmark in August 2016.

The strong field at the Saudi International also includes Justin Rose with the world number one seven shots off the lead after a par round which saw him hit three birdies and the same number of bogeys.

He won his 10th PGA Tour title in San Diego at the weekend but struggled comparatively in his group which also included Henrik Stenson and Brooks Koepka.

Rose said later: "I had the opportunity to hit a lot of shots close to the hole and couldn't make the putts.

"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."

Koepka hit a one-under 69 while Dustin Johnson put himself into contention with an opening round of 68, five shots off Pieters.

Pieters is 33/1 to win the Saudi International at the weekend with Rose 13/2 and Koepka 9/1.

Justin Rose is 12/5 to be the top British player while Koepka is 16/5 to be the leading American.

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