ST ANDREWS, Scotland - Fierce winds buffeted the east coast of Scotland Thursday, resulting in birdies being far fewer bogeys at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie in round one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
With precious few rounds under par, Brandon Stone (Kingsbarns), and Oliver Bekker and Peter Karmis (St Andrews) did best of the South Africans with 71s, a shot ahead of Ernie Els (Kingsbarns) on 72. Australia's Marcus Fraser topped the leaderboard at the end of the day with a brilliant four-under-par 68 in testing conditions at Carnoustie.
Branden Grace and fellow South African Ockie Strydom signed for 73s at Kingsbarns, with Justin Walters on the same number at St Andrews. For the rest of the big SA contingent, however, round one was pretty much a horror story. Grace, who started his round at the 10th at Kingsbarns, had drifted to four over par through his first 10 holes but then played the last eight in three under par to sign for a 73.
"I can't remember many days as tough as it was out there today," he said. "Fortunately I managed to come back well on my inward loop. Some days 73 is bad news, but today it wasn't a bad score. I'm certainly not out of it," added the 30-year-old who will defend his title in the Nedbank Golf Challenge next month in a jam-packed schedule for him between now and the end of the year.
"I've got three big tournaments in Asia, then the Nedbank, Dubai and the World Cup (in Australia, where he will team up with Charl Schwartzel). Then there's the Dunhill at Leopard Creek in December. I'm really looking forward to all the golf, but the travelling's going to be pretty hectic."
Three Ryder Cup men playing at Kingsbarns produced some good golf, with American Brooks Koepka home in 70, as was England's Tyrrell Hatton while compatriot Tommy Fleetwood, who was in the same group as Grace, shot 71.
A great first day of the 2018 @dunhilllinks at @KingsbarnsGL today. Felt good to play with my Dad Neels and Ricci on the bag again. I'm excited to get back out there tomorrow for Day 2! #dunhilllinks @EuropeanTour pic.twitter.com/QpyiLgW13O
South African players' scores:
71 - Brandon Stone (Kingsbarns), Oliver Bekker and Peter Karmis (St Andrews)
72 - Ernie Els (Kingsbarns)
73 - Branden Grace, Ockie Strydom (both Kinsbarns), Justin Walters (St Andrews)
74 - Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Kyle MacClatche (both Carnoustie), Louis Oosthuizen, Thomas Aiken, Louis de Jager (all Kingsbarns)
75 - Goerge Coetzee, Trevor Immelman (both St Andrews)
76 - JC Ritchie, Richard Sterne (both St Andrews)
77 - Jaco Ahlers, Darren Fichardt (Carnoustie), Haydn Porteous, Zander Lombard (St Andrews), Jacques Kruyswijk (Kingsbarns)
78 - JP Strydom (Kingsbarns), Jaco van Zyl (Carnoustie)
80 - Dean Burmester (St Andrews)
81 - Erik van Rooyen (St Andrews), Ulrich van den Berg (Kingsbarns)