Oliver Bekker leads Alfred Dunhill Championship as star names struggle
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 15/12/18 11:58pm
Oliver Bekker ended the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship with the outright lead after a back-nine birdie spree at Leopard Creek.
Bekker coped well with the blustery conditions as he eased to the turn in 33 with three birdies and one bogey, and he then raced into the lead with four consecutive birdies from the 11th which lifted him to six under par.
The South African was unable to improve his score as he failed to take advantage of the two remaining par-fives at the 15th and 18th, but he avoided any further blemishes and his 66 was enough to earn the first-round lead ahead of Dimitrios Papadatos.
"It was definitely a great afternoon on the golf course," said Bekker, an eight-time winner on the Sunshine Tour. "The wind died a little bit on us so I'm glad to have been able to take advantage of that.
"I hit it really good today. The greens are really firm but I drove it well so I was in fairway most of the time so I could control my ball. I made one or two but, all in all, I just played solid golf today.
"I think the changes on this golf course are good for my game. I, traditionally, have not played that great over here but today I felt like it suited my game a little bit better, so I'm looking forward to what this week's got in store."
French veteran Raphael Jacquelin recovered from an uncertain start as he bogeyed the fourth and fifth before a birdie at the sixth and four more gains on the back nine lifted him to four under, while defending champion Brandon Stone is among a group of eight players who are three off the lead.
Stone got to four under before dropping his only shot of the round at the seventh - his 16th - and parred in to card a 69, a score matched by the Scottish duo of David Drysdale and Liam Johnston, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal and Ryder Cup vice-captain Robert Karlsson.
Bernd Wiesberger, who was sidelined for the majority of the summer with a wrist injury, gave himself encouragement of making the weekend after two straight missed cuts as he opened with a 70.
Former Ryder Cup star Oliver Wilson continued his good form and was also two under for the round, a week after securing a place in the field for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush with his tie for third at the South African Open.
Louis Oosthuizen, who lifted his home Open for the first time last week, has ground to make up if he is to make it back-to-back wins after he returned a 71 in which he offset three birdies with two bogeys.
Four-time major champion Ernie Els is two shots further adrift following an erratic 73, while Charl Schwartzel's bid for a fifth victory in this event got off to a poor start as he joined Els and Branden Grace on one over par.