South African teenager, Charl Schwartzel, already the second youngest player to gain his European Tour card through the Qualifying School Finals, now has an opportunity to be the youngest champion on The European Tour.
Schwartzel carded an effortless nine under par 63 to share lead after the first round of the Canarias Open de España at Golf Costa Adeje, Tenerife.
Ahead for much of the day by one stroke from a growing list of players which eventually totalled nine, including two time Masters Tournament winner, Jose Maria Olazabal, Schwartzel was caught late on by Sweden’s Mårten Olander, who racked up three twos on his card.
Meanwhile Schwartzel – at the tender age of 18 years and 239 days on Sunday – could surpass the long-time record held by another South African, Dale Hayes, who was 18 years and 290 days old in the same tournament 32 years ago.
Schwartzel did not drop a shot during a day in which over 100 players managed to break par, and the talented South African left the best until last. Starting at the tenth, the youngster picked up two shots on his outward journey, but turned for home and proceeded to devour the last nine holes in 29 blows with two eagles and three birdies.
Playing just his 11th professional event and already with a third place finish in the South African Airways Open to his name, Schwartzel had completed his round long before joint leader Olander had even set out on his latest venture.
Golf Costa Adeje, a new venue for the tournament, has six par fives and Schwartzel covered them in seven under. Yet he said afterwards: "Generally speaking I didn't play very well. I didn't drive very well and missed a lot of fairways.
But you can get away with it on this course.
"I was never really in big trouble, my iron play was good and then on my back nine my putter woke up."
Denmark’s Søren Hansen and Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden were in the log-jam at eight under par after shooting 64s and then both men revealed they would not be surprised to see somebody shooting The European Tour's first-ever 59.
At a Golf Costa Adaje course which has wide open fairways and precious little rough the scoring was low right from the start. Ryder Cup player Sandelin birdied his last four holes for an inward 30 that enabled him to catch reigning Irish Open champion Hansen, who himself birdied four of the last five.
``If there is no 59 I would be disappointed,'' said Sandelin. ``There are so many eagle opportunities. It takes a lot still, but there are good players in the field.''
Hansen added: ``It's going to be a really low week, but you still have to do it. The key is to stay patient.''
Tournament favourite, Sergio Garcia, trying to become the first player since Max Faulkner in 1953 to retain the title, had to be content with a three under par 69.''