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Late Flurry Gives Jones the Advantage in Belgium

Sam Jones in action at the 2024 Soudal Open

Sam Jones, a name that might not yet be a household staple among golf enthusiasts, has certainly announced his arrival on the DP World Tour with an exclamation mark.

In a thrilling first round of the Soudal Open at the picturesque Rinkven International Golf Club, Jones celebrated a career-first albatross, catapulting himself into a commanding two-shot lead.

The New Zealander, navigating his rookie season on the DP World Tour, displayed a remarkable late surge in his round.

He managed three consecutive birdies starting from the 14th hole, showing the seasoned composure of a veteran.

However, it was at the par-five 17th where Jones truly etched his name into the round’s highlights.

With the deft touch of a magician, he holed his second shot using a three-wood from an impressive 248 meters, pushing his score to a sublime nine under par.

Though his spectacular round of 62 won’t be immortalized in the record books due to preferred lies being in place for the first two rounds, it was nonetheless sufficient to place him ahead of a tightly packed field.

Hot on his heels were the English duo of Matthew Jordan and Andrew Wilson, Danish contender Niklas Nørgaard, Romain Langasque from France, and Spain’s Nacho Elvira, all posting seven under-par rounds of 64.

Jones’ path to this impressive lead is nothing short of a comeback story. After earning his DP World Tour card through the gruelling Qualifying School last year, Jones faced the harsh realities of professional golf, missing the cut in four of his last five starts.

Yet, with this performance, he has demonstrated a steely resilience and a flair for the dramatic, suggesting that a maiden victory might not be far off.

“To achieve my first albatross in such a fashion, especially when I needed a strong finish, is just unbelievable,” Jones might have said if he were one to boast. Instead, his clubs did all the talking, particularly during that astonishing backnine, where he carded a tournament-low 28.

Not far behind, Scot Connor Syme trails by three shots at six under par, a score matched by England’s Alex Fitzpatrick and former Ryder Cup stalwart Ross Fisher. They are part of a cluster of seven players snapping at Jones’ heels, all just a stroke further back.

The local fans had their moments of cheer too, with Thomas Pieters, another former Ryder Cup player, emerging as the leading Belgian. Pieters carded a solid 67, placing him alongside eleven other players at four under.

As the European Swing of the tour unfolds, Jones’ sensational start has set the tone for what promises to be an enthralling tournament.

Whether he can sustain this momentum amidst a field brimming with talent remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – Sam Jones has made his mark, and it’s one that won’t fade easily.