Charl Schwartzel is on track for a record fifth victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship after opening with a six under par 66 to share the lead with Ireland's Paul Dunne in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Thursday.
After this round, Schwartzel is now 128 under par for his career in this tournament. That includes his four victories in this event, and his four second place finishes. It makes him 83 shots better than any other player.
But Schwartzel described his first round as a grind on the front nine before he found some form on the back.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong really. A couple of shots just didn’t finish as I planned. I knew if I could get through there that my game was feeling good and that it was just a matter of getting the execution I was looking for. And on the back nine it came together nicely.
“There was nothing off about my game on the front nine. I was hitting good shots, but they were finishing the wrong distances, and on this golf course, with all the slopes, you can sometimes end up a long way away.”
Dunne could well have led on his own were it not for a double bogey on the ninth where the young Irishman decided not to try his luck against the hazards of Leopard Creek.
“I tried to hit a sweeping draw off the ninth fairway and I blocked it. It landed on the path and then kicked in the middle of the bush. I looked for it around the edge of the bush but I wasn’t fancying going in deep in there to try and find it. I mean, it’s not worth getting bitten by a snake or anything like that.”
Schwartzel and Dunne are one stroke clear of a pack of six players including reining South African Open champion Brandon Stone.
Stone had set the early clubhouse target of five under with his morning round in perfect conditions, leaving him in a pack of six players on that score.
“I putted superbly. Obviously the morning conditions were really beneficial to a good score. And my first six holes I was four under par so it was really strong building blocks.”
There are a host of former champions chasing in Richard Sterne at two shots off the pace, and Branden Grace three behind.