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Maybin holds nerve in bid to stay on European Tour

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Gareth Maybin hit an encouraging 69 in the first round of the South African Open

Gareth Maybin hit an encouraging 69 in the first round of the South African Open

Stuart Franklin

Gareth Maybin hit an encouraging 69 in the first round of the South African Open

Gareth Maybin struck a vital blow in his grim battle for survival on the European Tour with a satisfying first-round 69 at the South African Open.

Maybin (31), added the South African event to his schedule in a bid to hang onto his Tour card after nine missed cuts in his last 11 events sent him plummeting to 118th in the money list.

The top 115 after next week's Hong Kong Open, the final event of the regular European Tour season, will clinch full playing credentials for 2012 and the frantic scramble to avoid Q-School is dominating proceedings at Serengeti Golf Club.

Especially with Scotland's Steven O'Hara, currently 134th in the Tour rankings, tied for the lead with in-form South African Jbe Kruger on seven-under after both opened with sizzling seven-under par 65s.

Maybin, who turned in level par and then picked up three birdies as he played the front nine in a bogey free 33, was surrounded on the leaderboard by many of his closest rivals on the money list.

For example, the Belfast native was one stroke behind Markus Brier (116th on the Order of Merit), Philip Price (117th) and Keith Horne (120th); level on three-under with Alvaro Velasco (130th) and Oliver Wilson (133rd) and one ahead of Richard McEvoy (121st).

Meanwhile, Australian duo Richard Green and Brendan Jones carded a superb 61 to take a two-shot lead over Ireland and Scotland after the first round of the World Cup in China.

Taking full advantage of the fourballs format, Green and Jones went to the turn in 32 at Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island before storming home in 29 with two eagles and three birdies.

Ireland, represented by major winners Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, kept in touch after returning a 63 to lie nine under par.

“I thought it was a very solid opening day,” said McIlroy, who was second with McDowell when the event was last played two years ago.

“We sort of set a target around eight to 10 under par that we thought was going to be a good score out there and we managed to shoot something around that.

“It puts us in a great position going into the next three days. The fourballs this week are where you're going to make most of your birdies and the foursomes is a more demanding format where both players need to be on their games to shoot a low score.

“It was a good start but we know we still have got a tough job ahead of us.”

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Open champion Darren Clarke outshone playing companions Adam Scott and Presidents Cup captain Greg Norman with a first round 69 at the Australian PGA in Coolum.

Clarke did the Claret Jug proud as he sped into a share of the lead on four-under after just 10 holes before a couple of back-to-back bogeys halted his progress.

At day's end, the Ulsterman trailed leaders Steve Bowditch, a Sunshine Coast local, and Korea's Joon-woo Choi by three. American Bubba Watson shared third with Presidents Cup rival Aaron Baddeley after his 67.

Belfast Telegraph