Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood shot opening rounds of 68 to top the leader board on day one at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Thursday.
Schwartzel’s effort on the back nine was almost as impressive as his final round at the US Masters this year, as he holed five birdies on the back nine to elegantly salvage what could have been a disastrous round, after double bogeying the ninth.
The lone South African in the field could have finished the day out in the sole lead had it not been for an impressive finish by Westwood on the 18th as the world’s No.2 ranked player — and defending champions — coolly putted for birdie from seven metres out.
The weather threatened to delay proceedings at around lunch time as the players soldiered through some light rain but luckily there was no lightning to hamper the game.
Swede Robert Karlsson is one shot behind the leaders with an opening round 69, as the Scandinavian offered a solid all round display with his putter and driver.
Tied for fourth spot on two under is world No. 1 Luke Donald, Brit Simon Dyson, South Korea’s Kim Kyung Tae, German Martin Kaymer, Jason Dufner from the US as well as this year’s US Open champion Graeme Mcdowell from Northern Ireland.
Two shots further back Italian Francesco Molinari is tied with Dane Anders Hanson for fourth spot after firing even par 72s for their opening efforts.
British open champion Darren Clarke is faced with the task of rescuing his tournament after a disappointing 74 for last place on the opening day.
Arguably the shot of the day came from Molinari on the five-par second hole, when he sunk a 100m wedge shot for the first eagle of the tournament.
Karlsson however came close to achieving the first ever hole-in-one in Nedbank Golf Challenge history as the Swede’s tee-shot at the fourth came agonisingly close to the hole, halting a mere foot away.
Charl Schwartzel -4 68
Lee Westwood -4 18 -4 68
Robert Karlsson -3 69
Luke Donald -2 70
Jason Dufner -2 70
Simon Dyson -2 70
Martin Kaymer -2 70
Kim Kyung-Tae -2 70
Graeme McDowell -2 70
T10 Anders Hansen E 72
Francesco Molinari E 72
12 Darren Clarke +2 74
Four-way senior tie
David Frost, Nick Price, Ian Woosnam Bernard Langer all shot opening rounds of 69 for a share of the lead in the senior challenge event.
All being previous winners at Sun City, the leaders all have an equal chance of further glory in the 54-hole parallel tournament, which ends on Sunday.
Last year’s senior winner Jeff Sluman is three shots off the par after an even par opening round.
David Frost -3 18 -3 69 T1
Bernhard Langer -3 18 -3 69
Nick Price -3 18 -3 69
Ian Woosnam -3 18 -3 69
Tom Lehman -2 70
Mark Calcavecchia -1 71
Jeff Sluman E 72
Mark O`Meara +3 75