AAP Golf

McLeod one behind Pieters in EPGA Classic

By AAP Newswire

Australia's Jake McLeod eagled the last hole to move within one of leader Thomas Pieters after the opening round of the EPGA's Celtic Classic.

The Queenslander shot a six-under 65 and is joint second with England's Toby Tree.

Pieters led the tournament on Thursday, but the bigger talking point came off the course.

Alexander Levy became the first golfer to test positive for the coronavirus at a European Tour event and was one of two French players withdrawn on the opening day.

Levy came into contact last weekend with a friend in France who has since tested positive for the coronavirus, the tour said in a statement.

When Levy arrived at Welsh tournament venue Celtic Manor Resort, he tested negative. He was told to self-isolate for 14 days and has since returned a positive result in a retest.

Hours later, officials said Romain Wattel had been identified as having had contact with Levy in Wales after the tour and local health authorities used track and trace. He was also retested and returned a negative result, as did Levy's caddie.

Still, Wattel had to withdraw because of local health guidelines.

Pieters birdied four of his last five holes at the venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup, including at the 17th where he chipped in from off the green.

"(The chip on 17) was a little Pete Cowen special," Pieters said, referring to his coach. "It was grass against us, a little downhill so I tried to draw it, hit my spot and lucky it went it. It was a good shot.

"I putted well and kept my ball in play, so I didn't really get myself in trouble."

Pieters, a four-time European Tour winner, became a father for the first time during golf's suspension to daughter Florence.

"Fatherhood has been fantastic," the big-hitting Belgian player said. "I miss my little baby girl, but I am thankful I can play golf right now. It is the first event in five months, so it feels nice to get out there and actually put a score down."

Among the six players tied for fourth place - two shots off the lead - was Marc Warren, a winner in Austria last week when the tour resumed after a five-month break because of the pandemic.

Martin Simonsen of Denmark was a late replacement for Levy and shot 68 to be four strokes off the lead at an event played in an isolated environment.

The Australian contingent is faring well at the tournament with Maverick Antcliff also shooting a 68, while a shot further back are Min Woo Lee, Ryan Fox and Jason Scrivener.