Charl Schwartzel climbed up to T2 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa before the first round was halted due to dangerous weather
Schwartzel had made his move at the European Tour's 2016 opener with a trio of birdies at 14, 15 and 16 but, after a par at the next, he was forced off the course. Along with 38 others, the 2011 Masters champion will return to Leopard Creek at 0630 local time on Friday to finish up. Schwartzel has won his home event three times and has been runner-up on four other occasions so he's meeting expectations so far, especially after posting T4 in last week's DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He shares second spot with England's Matt Ford and Zimbabwean Matt Williams and has the chance to close the gap on three-shot clubhouse leader Christiaan Basson as the hole he has left to complete is a 541-yard par 5.
Defending champion Branden Grace had to settle for a 1-under-par 37-34=71 in round one of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
That's nine shots higher than his opening round last year when he went on to crush the field by seven shots. Grace looked to be cruising to another low one when circling birdies at 10 and 13 but he gave those shots back with a double bogey-6 at the 14th. He got it going again with birdies at 1 and 4 but played his final five holes in 1-over to post a rather disappointing 71. That's currently seven off the lead held by compatriot Christiaan Basson. On the live leaderboard, Grace is currently T36.
Matt Ford carded an eagle and five birdies in a first-round 5-under-par 35-32=67 at the season-opening Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Ford circled birdies at 4, 5, 10, 12 and 15 on his morning lap at Leopard Creek while advancing his back-nine charge with an eagle-3 at the 552-yard 13th. On the live leaderboard, he's tied for second place with Zimbabwe's Mark Williams and three strokes behind clubhouse leader Christiaan Basson of South Africa. Ford finished 105th on the 2015 Race To Dubai after moving inside the all-important top 110 with T7 at the UBS Hong Kong Open on his last start. He's 2-for-2 in this event and opened with a 66 last year before fading to T71. Expect him to play a stronger final 54 holes this time.
Mark Williams painted a 5-under-par 32-35=67 in round one of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa.
That's three swings behind leader Christiaan Basson but puts the Zimbabwean T2 in the clubhouse alongside England's Matt Ford. Williams gave his round a dramatic leap forward by holing his second shot at the 427-yard par-4 4th and followed it with birdies at the 6th and 7th. He had to settle for three bogeys against two birdies in his next eight holes but came on strong again at the finish with a pair of closing par breakers. The 31-year-old had come into the event on the back of three missed cuts although he did finish runner-up on the local Sunshine Tour's Vodacom Origins - St Francis Links at the start of October.
Christiaan Basson hung up a bogey-free 8-under-par 31-33=64 in his opening round at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, good enough for a three-shot lead.
At 561 in the world rankings, Basson appears an unlikely candidate to be topping the leaderboard in the European Tour's opening event of 2016. But his latest form on the local Sunshine Tour makes this far from a surprise. The South African has posted a win and four other top 10s in his last eight starts and also opened with a 64 when T8 in last week's Cape Town Open. He's also played in this event on six previous occasions, cashing four times and taking a share of 15th in 2011. Today, Basson picked off birdies at 2, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14 and 16. He currently leads by three from Mark Williams, Matt Ford and Charl Schwartzel although the latter still has a hole to finish off on Friday morning after a storm threat halted play early on Thursday. "I was coming into this week with good form but you can't expect that good a round first off," said Basson.
After sharing medalist honors at Q School a fortnight ago, Ulrich Van Den Berg will tee it up in this week's Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The South African finished at 18-under 410 alongside American Daniel Im and Spain's Adrian Otaegui to earn another crack at the European Tour. His first attempt in 2008 ended prematurely when he quit after just 10 events to look after his father who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After his father passed, Van Den Berg was given a medical exemption for 2009 but said he was a "broken man" and struggled through his 15 starts. With South Africa such a big part of the European Tour schedule, he's played in many co-sanctioned events since and this will be his 12th straight start at Leopard Creek. He's missed seven cuts but did post fourth in 2005 and T12 in 2009. The 40-year-old was T40 last year.
After his Q School heroics, Matthew Southgate will line up in the European Tour's 2016 opener in South Africa, the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The Englishman endured a short but draining battle with testicular cancer in July and briefly put his career on hold after undergoing treatment. But the 27-year-old battled through it and then negotiated all three stages of Q School to gain his card after finishing in solo sixth. Southgate had a failed crack at the European Tour in 2012 and 2013 but should know more this time. He's pegged it up at Leopard Creek once before and played all four rounds, finishing T62.
Niclas Fasth is listed as Player 1 in the opening group of this week's Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa.
In other words, the Swede looks set to hit the first shot of the new 2016 European Tour season. After finishing 146th on the Race to Dubai, Fasth gets in this week due to his category 12 status of being in the top 40 on the 2015 Career Money List. He's played in each of the last four editions of this event but his T29 in 2013 is the only time he cashed. Fasth will hope to wipe the slate clean here after finishing his 2015 campaign by missing 11 cuts in his final 12 starts.