With six straight Top 25 finishes, it’s fair to say that South Africa’s Branden Grace is an up and comer, but no one expected this.
Grace fired 10 birdies to shoot a 62, opening up a three-stroke lead after one day at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Malelane, South Africa, on Thursday.
Grace, born about four hours due east of Malelane in Pretoria, fired four birdies on the front nine and six more on the back to set the pace.
He’s three strokes ahead of fellow South African Jake Roos, playing his first event as a full Euro Tour member. The 34-year-old Roos is also a native of Pretoria.
Roos was 5-under through 11 thanks to an eagle 2 on the 432-yard No. 10, but bogeyed No. 12 for his only blemish of the day.
Last week’s winner Danny Willett is tied for third with fellow Brit Matt Ford at 6-under.
Two-time defending champion Charl Schwartzel and former winner Louis Oosthuizen are both in a huge pack of 13 players tied for 21st at 3-under.
Schwartzel was hot and cold all day, with four bogeys and seven birdies. Oosthuizen was more consistent, two birdies on the front and the back, but a bogey on No. 7 that kept him out of the Top 10.
Highly touted Tour rookie Matthew Fitzpatrick got off to a sluggish start, tied for 53rd at 1-under. Sitting at 2-under through six, Fitzpatrick doubled No. 8 and bogeyed No. 10 to rise to 1-over, then birdied 11 and 12 back-to-back to even out his day.