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Golf | SA

Gregory Bourdy © Gallo Images

Champagne Greg leads at the Creek



It was French flair that had the final say on day one of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, as Bordeaux’s Gregory Bourdy fired a bogey-free round of 66 to seize the lead by one stroke from a group of six players at five-under.

A birdie at the first was the ideal start for Bourdy, and he produced a flawless round that included three birdies on each nine.

“I’m very happy, because it’s not an easy course. I played a very consistent game and had a lot of birdie opportunities. I made six, so it’s very good,” Bourdy said.

“I didn’t miss a lot of shots, just a few, but they were very close to the fairways and the greens. I’m pretty happy to play like this on such a competitive course.”

The 30-year-old Bourdy missed out on the Race to Dubai final for the first time in five years a few weeks ago, and 2012 was perhaps not the finest year of his career. However, he showed signs of form in the latter part of the season, which included two top-10 finishes, and the Frenchman is pleased with the direction his game is moving in.

“I’ve felt comfortable for a few weeks. My last weeks after summer in Europe were good, and I was waiting for something more. I have an opportunity this week to produce a better performance, so I’ll do my best,” he said.

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One of the players hot on Bourdy’s heels is local resident Charl Schwartzel, who himself kept the blemishes off his card en route to a 67. The 28-year-old carried on from where he left off in Thailand last week, and a magnificent holed bunker shot at the 12th hole was one of the highlights of his round.

Despite a few missed opportunities on the inward stretch, the diminutive Schwartzel was satisfied with his efforts on the day.

“It’s a nice start. Whenever you can start off with a five-under it’s good. Like I always say you can’t win on the first day, but you can sure lose it,” Schwartzel said.

“I’ve always liked the course. It always seems to suit my eye, and it’s got some sort of relaxing feel about it, so the combination goes well together,” he added.

After a long season, Schwartzel has already stated that he would have taken the week off were it not for the prestigious nature of the event. It leaves the man from Vereeniging fighting major fatigue, and he is calling on all his experience to make himself competitive this week.

“There’s nothing I can really do, I’m just run down. I’m not striking it as good, but I’ve been around for a while, so I can manoeuvre it around a bit by now,” he said.

The leaderboard has a crowded look about it with four players a further stroke adrift at four-under. One of those men is Branden Grace, who exhibited the kind of form that has seen him claim four European Tour titles and dominate the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit in 2012.

And with his nearest challengers for the coveted prize having failed to make any significant inroads on the day, the 24 year-old will feel as though he’s taken a giant stride towards getting over the line.

The course offered up docile conditions on the day, and players produced some sparkling scores to get their tournaments going. And with the weather set fair for tomorrow, more low rounds can be expected and the cut may well be in red numbers.

The first ball will again be struck at 6:20 am on Friday, with live coverage available from 1:30pm on SuperSport 1.

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