Friday, 19 March 2010
Alfred Dunhill Championships - Round One  (Getty Images)
Alfred Dunhill Championships - Round One (Getty Images)

South African Ulrich Van den Berg banished the memories of a last round meltdown four years ago to take the lead on the opening day of the new European Tour season.

The 34 year old, ranked 657th in the world, led the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek by four with 12 holes to play in 2005, but then crashed to an inward 44.

He has missed the halfway cut in the event every year since, but a flawless eight under par 64 this time has put him one in front of Swede Pelle Edberg.

Ernie Els, the player who took advantage of Van den Berg's collapse but had his own nightmare on the course two years ago with a closing triple bogey eight when two ahead, birdied the hole on his return and signed for a 68.

Van den Berg, who did not manage a single top 20 finish in 12 European Tour starts last season, came home in a five under 30.

"I’ve been struggling with my game for at least a year now, and haven’t been anywhere near my best," he said.

"I’ve felt my game has been coming around, but mentally I’ve just been all over the show.

"I felt very peaceful and relaxed out there. For me it always depends on my putting - if it's good then I feel I can relax."

A week ago Edberg was at The European Tour Qualifying School in Spain - and failed to win back a card.

He owed his place in the event to his 132nd placed finish on last season's Race to Dubai and birdied five of the last seven holes.

Playing with Els was Edoardo Molinari, the Italian who lifted the Omega Mission Hills World Cup with his brother Francesco two weeks ago and has won four of his last six events.

A win could take him into the world's top 50 and bring with it a place in next April's Masters Tournament alongside his brother, and that hope is still alive after a 66 gave him a share of third spot with another South African, Titch Moore.

Not such a good day, though, for the other member of the group, England's John Bickerton.

Shock winner two years ago when Els came to grief on the last, Bickerton could do no better than 81 and is next to last. Defending champion Richard Sterne returned a level-par 72.

 

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MARTIN BENAVIDES, PabloESP18-17
2SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-16
3HANSEN, AndersDEN18-14
T4MAYBIN, GarethNIR18-12
T4STERNE, RichardRSA18-12
T4ROCK, RobertENG18-12
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