The ‘Pavon Effect’ As Countryman Tom Vaillant Commands Bahrain Championship Lead

Call it the Pavon Effect with fellow Frenchman Tom Vaillant brilliantly birdieing his closing two holes to grab a one-shot lead after the opening round of the inaugural Bahrain Championship presented by Bapco Energies.

Vailliant, 22, produced a superb bogey-free eight-under 64 in testing afternoon conditions to be one clear of the field and competing in only a fifth DP World Tour event heads to the second clear of the duo of Swiss golfer Joel Girrbach and South African Zander Lombard at seven under.

Three shots back of the lead is the in-form Ramus Hojgaard who was runner-up in last week’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship, and also put aside a stomach complaint for the Dane to end his round birdie and eagle.

However, it was Vaillant’s day and just four days after Matthieu Pavon became the first French-born in the modern era to win on the PGA Tour following his triumph in the Farmers Insurance Open.

The Cannes Mougins GC attached Vaillant has enjoyed a rapid rise in recent years, winning in back-to-back weeks on the Alps Tour while still an amateur in 2022 to gain promotion to the European Challenge Tour.

His rookie Race to Mallorca season then saw him secure two second-place finishes to end the year 12th and the guarantee of his main Tour card for 2024.

As well, his opening Bahrain round is a lowest by three shots in the 11 rounds only he has played since securing his DP World Tour card.

“I just tried to hit as many greens as I could and just play solid the whole day and try to putt at a great speed and if I make some putts it’s great,” he said.

“I don’t know how it has gone that fast but I am just trying to do my job the best that I can and doing the best thing I can every day.

“It puts me in this place because I work the right way so I’m just trying to keep going and do the same thing every day.

“Today doesn’t matter. I just try to do everything great and we’ll see where it puts me at the end of the week but obviously I’m working for that and I’m ready to face everything.”

Lombard has two top tens and has not finished outside the top 25 in six starts this season and he continued that fine form despite opening with a bogey.

He recovered with four birdies before the turn, almost holing out for eagle at the sixth, and nearly aced the 12th as he recorded four in a row from the ninth.

A closing birdie then got him to seven under where he would be joined by the 30-year-old Girrbach, also a Challenge Tour graduate.


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