Nedbank Golf Challenge

Grace leads SA charge at Sun City

2017-11-09 17:07
Branden Grace (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Branden Grace leads the South African charge after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.

As it happened: Nedbank Golf Challenge Day 1

Following a slow start to his opening round at Sun City where he only made a single birdie on the front nine, Grace came back strongly on the homeward stretch to sign for four-under-par 68 to share second spot on the leaderboard.

"I didn't really feel like I did something wrong in the first couple of holes," said Grace of the shots he dropped on the third hole and the par-three fourth.

"A disappointing start in that way but it was great playing six-under from there on and with no bogeys on then scorecard after the fourth."

His back nine was the most eventful on day one as he made birdies on 10, 13 and 15 while an eagle on the par-five 14th just sweetened the deal for the five-time Sunshine Tour winner.

He said he was pleased with his first-round effort at the Gary Player Country Club where he came third last year in the corresponding event.

"There was a lot of positive signs," he said, even as he felt he left a few out there. "I think there's still a few things I need to improve on, so I'm going to hit the putting green this afternoon."

The seven-time European Tour winner said he was most pleased to start a tournament on home soil after a year of absence.

"For me, coming out and playing an event here at Sun City is extra special because this is one of those you want to play and win. I was disappointed not starting in the SA Open in the beginning of the year but for me coming out here is special."

While he is one shot off the pace set by the Austrian Bernd Wiesberger who shot five-under 67, Grace is the highest finisher among the ten-man South African contingent competing in what has become known as Africa's Major.

Charl Schwartzel finished in a share of sixth with Japan's Hideto Tanihara, the defending champion Alex Noren and the SA Open Championship winner Graeme Storm on three-under 69.

Darren Fichardt - who was a last-minute replacement for Anthony Wall of England - as well as Louis Oosthuizen started their rounds well as they were among the leaders in the first five holes, slipped back to a share of 22nd on one-under in perfect weather conditions in Sun City.

Leading first-round scores from the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, South Africa on Thursday (par 72, GBR/IRL unless stated):

67 – Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)

68 – Victor Dubuisson (FRA), Scott Jamieson, Julian Suri (USA), Branden Grace (RSA)

69 - Graeme Storm, Hideto Tanihara (JPN), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Alex Noren (SWE)

70 - Nacho Elvira (ESP), Paul Waring, Lee Slattery, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA), Li Haotong (CHN), Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR), Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN), Peter Uihlein (USA), Lee Westwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ross Fisher, Callum Shinkwin

Selected:

71 – Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)

72 - Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP)

73 – Martin Kaymer (GER), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Tommy Fleetwood

74 – Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington

79 – Thomas Bjorn (DEN)

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