Grace shines in Scotland

10/4/2012 6:08:54 PM
Branden Grace   (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)
South African Branden Grace equalled the European Tour record with a round of 60 at Kingsbarns to lead after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Already with three European Tour titles to his name this season, the 24 year old knocked two strokes off Lee Westwood's course record thanks to an eagle and 10 birdies - five of them in a row to finish with.

Fourteen players have now shot 60 on The European Tour - Darren Clarke has done it twice - and like so many of the others Grace came off saying: "It could have been a 59".

The Pretoria golfer leads Victor Dubuisson by two, the Frenchman's 62 at St Andrews also being a course record, while many of the big guns were left trailing in his wake after they battled with the far tougher Carnoustie.

When Westwood had his 62 at Kingsbarns in 2003 it included an albatross two on the ninth, but Grace needed nothing as extraordinary as that.

"I never really made anything long," he said. "It was all 12 to 15 footers and it's nice just to have a bogey-free round on a links.

"We were lucky with the weather, but you still have to get it in the right spots and get it around."

His eagle came on the 565 yard 16th, his seventh, and took him to five under, but it was on the outward half where he really went into overdrive.

Grace birdied all but the second and fourth and came to the 558 yard ninth needing an eagle for the 59, but pushed his second wide before pitching to a foot.

Amazingly, Dubuisson threatened to overshadow him at the Home of Golf when he reached 11 under with three to play.

Two more birdies and he would have had the elusive and magical 59, but the 22 year old bogeyed the 371 yard seventh and parred the last two.

He switches to Carnoustie tomorrow, while Grace is at St Andrews.

Dane Thorbjørn Olesen is in third place after a 63 at St Andrews, while the best scores at Carnoustie were the 67s of England's Oliver Wilson and France's Gregory Havret.

The three Ryder Cup heroes in the field - Paul Lawrie, Martin Kaymer and Peter Hanson - returned 75, 70 and 72 respectively, with Lawrie commenting on his return to the course where he won the 1999 Open Championship: "I was a little bit tired obviously, but the first 12 holes were my worst ball-striking of the year."

Current Open Champion Ernie Els had to play the last eight in three under just for a 73, while Paul McGinley struggled to a 76.

Highlight of the Irishman's day, in fact, was partnering Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pretorius in the celebrity pro-am.

"It was a real honour to be in his company," he said.

Kaymer dropped his only shot of the day at the 18th - good job for Europe he did better than that at Medinah - while Hanson recovered from three over to one under before also finishing with a five.

It was not only Lawrie returning to the scene of his Open triumph. So was Padraig Harrington, who won the Claret Jug in 2007 after a play-off with Sergio Garcia, and he signed for a 71.