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Thursday, 09 December 2010
Anthony Michael  (Getty Images)
Anthony Michael (Getty Images)
South Africa's Anthony Michael holds a one shot lead after his morning round of 66 proved enough to set the pace in the first event of The 2011 Race to Dubai, the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The 25 year old completed the Leopard Creek layout in six under par to put him one stroke clear of compatriot Dawie Van der Walt, Norway's Marius Thorp, Robert Rock and Sebastian Buhl at Malelane.

Michael is a rookie on the Sunshine Tour having turned professional a year ago and admits that his first love is baseball.

The Johannesburg golfer represented South Africa at junior level in baseball and even went to the motherland of the sport, the United States, to try and pursue his dream.

He attended the Oklahoma City University but then realised that golf was the way to go.

"I played baseball for South Africa on a trip to Japan when I was ten," Michael said after his seven birdies and one bogey round.

"I was going to go to the United States to play baseball, but the sport kind of died in South Africa, so I decided golf was the way to go."

Looking back on his round, Michael, who is still chasing the 'Best Rookie' prize on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, added: "I struggled a bit today off the tees, I hit only three fairways, but from the rough to the greens was good and on the greens was amazing.

"I came in with a lot of confidence and I had a good feel out there.

"I find that I play pretty well under pressure. I'm not sure why, but I've always enjoyed the pressure."

England's Rock has had three runner-up finishes on The European Tour but is yet to taste victory, although he boosted his chances with a five under 67.

He carded five birdies and kept his card bogey-free courtesy of an impressive up-and-down at the 17th.

Buhl was a Challenge Tour regular last season and the 26 year old German took his chance to shine on the big stage with six birdies against a single dropped shot.

Thorp graduated from last season's Challenge Tour and kicked off his maiden European Tour campaign with an impressive round boosted by four closing birdies, including a chip in at the par three 16th.

Van der Walt atoned for a bogey on the 11th - his second hole of the day - with a burst of four birdies in the next seven holes to turn in 34 and added two more birdies on the way in.

Last year's Challenge Tour Number One Alvaro Velasco, his fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello, South Africans Keith Horne and Andrew Giorgiou and Swede Klas Eriksson were a shot further back on four under.

Defending champion Pablo Martin recovered from a disappointing front nine to finish the day three shots off the pace.

He eagled the driveable par four sixth after hitting his tee shot within a foot, birdied the second and fourth but double bogeyed the ninth after finding water.

"I'm happy," said Martin. "How can I not be happy after that flight and that score?" He had travelled from New York to defend his title.

The man Martin beat in last year's victory, Charl Schwartzel, had a round of mixed fortunes, but, like Martin, he finished strongly with a birdie on the 18th for a 70.

"It's still very early," said the 2004 winner. "I just didn't get going, and if it gets going soon, it will quickly be something like six under."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MARTIN BENAVIDES, PabloESP18-11
T2OLESEN, ThorbjørnDEN18-9
T2SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-9
T2MICHAEL, AnthonyRSA18-9
5AIKEN, ThomasRSA18-7
T6DINWIDDIE, RobertENG18-6
R2D Fantasy

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