Jake McLeod – file photo

European Tour rookie, Jake McLeod, has a big task at this week’s Portugal Masters if he is to avoid a trip to the European Tour school in November but he has made a very good start to the second to last event in which he is eligible to play on the 2019 European Tour season.

The 25-year old Queenslander has, however, made a fine start to the event and after the opening round he finds himself in a share of 2nd place and two shots from the lead of South African Louis De Jager.

McLeod began the week in 159th place in the Race to Dubai Rankings, needing to be inside the top 110 by season’s end if he is to retain the European Tour status he earned through his performance on the Australasian Tour in 2018.

McLeod has improved to 116th on the projected rankings but clearly has more work to do and has only this week and next week’s WGC HSBC Champions to do in which to do so.

“It’s quite wide off the tee, so you can get up there and really give it a rip,” said McLeod of the layout at Vilamoura on the Algarve Peninsula which he is playing for the first time this week.

“But it can be quite penalising around the greens if you miss in the wrong spots – they’re running quite fast this week. I found myself on a lot of the good sides today – hopefully I can keep doing that.

“This season has been pretty average, so I’ve come out here and I’ll have a bit of fun and probably go to Q School unless I get the win.”

McLeod’s 6 under par round of 65 was bogey free and, although he will have the more demanding afternoon conditions to contend with on day two, it was an impressive start after a run of indifferent form in his debut season at this level.

Nick Cullen was the next best of the Australians after his round of 70 has him in 57th place, Dimi Papadatos was round in 71, New Zealander Ryan Fox and Min Woo Lee 72, Deyen Lawson 73 with Sam Brazel and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell 76.