Five-Way Tie at the Top in Alfred Dunhill Championship

3/19/2010 3:02:38 PM

Local favourite Charl Schwartzel shares the lead with Alessandro Tadini of Italy, the English pair of  Phillip Archer and Oliver Wilson and South African Wayne de Haas after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa.The quintet shot four under par 68s, one ahead of seven players chasing at 69 and another ten players on 70.

Schwartzel, fifth place on his debut in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week, came into the tournament as one of the favourites and can retain that right going into second round after a clinical game of golf.

“This is one of my favourites courses and I really love it,” said Schwartzel. As the heat soared in the high thirties, Schwartzel started with four birdies on the front nine offset by a bogey at the par four eighth, the only blemish on his scorecard.

“I had a laugh thinking about those guys going out there into the heat this afternoon,” joked Scotland’s Andrew Coltart, who finished the day on three-under just before lunch.

However, Schwartzel, the 2004/05 and 2005/06 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner, showed no signs of fatigue coming off the course around 18h00. Turning in 32, there was only one flutter of a birdie at the tenth, with Schwartzel keeping it level for the next eight holes.

“It’s never bad to be tied for the lead. It was really warm, but it wasn’t unbearable” he said.

While the par fours seemed to give him more opportunities for birdies, he might have been more aggressive on the par fives. “I did not make birdies on the par fives, but other than that, I played well on the par fours. Hopefully I can play better on those tomorrow.”

“I won’t say that I was too conservative on the par fives. On the 13th, I could have gone for it but then the wind was blustery, so if you drove it up with a  three wood, you can go right over the green. So, if you can make five, it’s not bad, “ said Schwartzel.

Tied with the South African, is Italy’s Tadini, playing in his second Alfred Dunhill Championship. The 1994 Italian Amateur champion relied heavily on his short game to set the early clubhouse lead at four under.

“My putting was really good today. My iron play could have been better and off the tee I could do more. But I was really happy with my putting, “ said the InterMilan fan.

Wilson, also playing in his second Alfred Dunhill Championship, got off to a great start with two consecutive birdies, but had to hold his nerve as exhaustion set in on his back nine.

The Englishman was set for a top 20 finish in 2004 with earlier rounds of 69, 73 and 76, but he made a ten at the 18th, which saw him slip from 25th to 68th place.

“Today I had visions of it all going wrong on the 18th, again. I really felt tired on the 12th and 13th and I battled to get my focus back,” said the 26 year old from Mansfield.

But Wilson regained focus and seemed to shake the jinks of the 18th hole with a birdie. His second shot found the greenside bunker, but he made an excellent up-and-down for a spirit-lifting four on the treacherous par five.

Archer, is the most experienced campaigner in the leading  group at 34, a number he matched perfectly with identical nines of 34.

The surprise of the day was little known de Haas who who slipped in the back door with a top ten finish at the Limpopo Classic, surprised the leaders by carding the only bogey-free round among the front runners to join the logjam.

With two birdies on his front nine and another two on the back, his faultless scorecard could have put him in the sole lead, but he missed a  four foot putt at the last for 68.

“This is a huge moment for me. Playing with Ernie and the guys has always been something you envision for yourself and now it has become a reality, “ said a very happy De Haas.

And, while many might have expected defending champion, Ernie Els, to finish a little higher on the leader board than even-par 72, they will be well advised to remember that Els came from behind last year to win in the final round.