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Thursday, 06 January 2011
Impala at East London  (Getty Images)
Impala at East London (Getty Images)

Brandon Pieters put together a run of five consecutive birdies to establish a slender one shot lead after round one of the Africa Open.

The four-time Sunshine Tour winner carded a seven under par 66 at East London Golf Club to lead compatriots Branden Grace and Jaco Van Zyl, France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Swede Fredrik Ohlsson and England's Miles Tunnicliff.

Starting at the ninth, Pieters eagled his third hole of the day - the par five 11th - after hitting his approach to four feet.

Three birdies and three bogeys followed in the next seven holes, before Pieters launched his birdie blitz - starting at the third and culminating with a six footer on the seventh which gripped the lip before dropping.

Four of the five leading players took advantage of the best of the morning conditions following a 90-minute fog delay, and before the wind picked up in the afternoon.

Pieters said: "It's always all about putting, and I didn't really miss anything from inside ten feet today.

"All good putting, that's all."

Tunnicliff - playing on a sponsor's invite after losing his European Tour card - and Gonnet both bogeyed the 14th, but the Englishman did not drop another shot as he carded five birdies and an eagle.

Gonnet, still searching for a maiden European Tour title in his fifth season at this level, also dropped a shot at the ninth but six birdies and an eagle at the 11th put him firmly in contention.

Qualifying School graduate Van Zyl was the only member of the leading players not to drop a shot, as last season's four-time Sunshine Tour winner picked up six birdies.

"I only missed one fairway all day," he said, "and that was only just."

Grace was the only player in the top five to tee off in the afternoon, and he left it late to make his move as holed his approach to the 18th for an eagle which completed an inward 31.

“I was just trying to hit it close,” Grace said.

“But the turning point came when I sank a good 15 footer for birdie on the tenth, and that was the first of three in a row for me,” he added.

English pair Ross McGowan and Robert Rock were joined on five under by South Africans Thabang Simon, Jbe Kruger, Doug McGuigan and Scot Lloyd Saltman.

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke also made good starts to 2011, with both on four under, while 2010 Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen was a further shot behind on three under after his 70.

Ulsterman Clarke also had a good day as he bids to end a two-year winless streak by winning in South Africa.

He said: "I was a bit rusty and hit some poor shots, but hit a few decent ones as well.

"My distance control on the wedges was poor, but that was to be expected after I had a bit of a break. So all in all, I'm pretty pleased with the start."

Clarke, who recorded a pair of eagles, two birdies and two bogeys, added: "There were a few mistakes, but I putted quite nicely. I made two silly bogeys on 13 and 14, but apart from that it was all right.

"I holed a really nice putt on 18 after playing the perfect tee-shot and playing a bit like a dog after that."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1OOSTHUIZEN, LouisRSA18-16
T2WOOD, ChrisENG18-16
T2QUIROS, ManuelESP18-16
T4O'HARA, StevenSCO18-15
T4SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-15
T4VAN ZYL, JacoRSA18-15
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