Cape Town - Oliver Bekker took advantage of a magnificent afternoon on the Leopard Creek course and signed for a six-under-par 66 to lead the Alfred Dunhill Championship by one stroke after Thursday’s the first round.
LEADERBOARD: Alfred Dunhill Championship - Round 1
The South African had an afternoon draw and benefitted from a drop in the wind that had unsettled the morning field.
Bekker's four birdies in his first five holes on the back nine in particular gave him the edge over his nearest challenger Dimitrios Papadatos of Australia on five under.
"We had the better side of the draw because the wind dropped completely. I'm glad to have been able to take advantage of that," said Bekker.
Defending champion Brandon Stone teed off in the morning wind and was very pleased with his three-under-par 69. Louis Oosthuizen also felt he had to work really hard for his one-under-par 71 in the morning conditions.
Former champion Branden Grace did well to fight his way back from being four over at one point to a finish of one-over-par 73.
And two other former champions in Charl Schwartzel and Ernie Els also came through the opening day at one over par.
But the combination of the calmer afternoon conditions and changes to the Leopard Creek course worked perfectly for Bekker as he leads this prestigious championship only a few days after securing his Web.com Tour card for next season.
"I hit the ball really well all day. In particular, I drove it well so I was on the fairway most of the time, which meant I could control my ball into these firm greens. I just played solid golf," he said.
"The changes to the course are clearly good for my game. I've never really played that great here in the past, but I felt like it now suits my game a little bit better."
Leading first round scores in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane Thursday (par-72, RSA unless noted):
66 - Oliver Bekker
67 - Dimitrios Papadatos (AUS)
68 - Raphael Jacquelin (FRA)
69 - David Drysdale (SCO), Darren Fichardt, Dylan Frittelli, Liam Johnston (SCO), Robert Karlsson (SWE), Espen Kofstad (NOR), Pablo Larrazabal (ESP), Hyowon Park (KOR), Brandon Stone
70 - Adri Arnaus (ESP), Ben Evans (ENG), David Lipsky (USA), Robert Macintyre (SCO), Erik van Rooyen, Ockie Strydom, Marc Warren (SCO), Bernd Wiesberger (AUT), Oliver Wilson (ENG)
71 - Louis Oosthuizen
73 - Ernie Els, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel
74 - Trevor Immelman, Romain Langasque (FRA), Matt Wallace (ENG)