Wil Besseling claimed the clubhouse lead midway through the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship as the 2020 European Tour season kicked off in hot conditions.
Leopard Creek Country Club was drenched in sunshine, with the temperatures hot enough that players had been given special dispensation to wear shorts for the first time.
After Daniel Greene hit the first shot of the 2020 Race to Dubai campaign, Dutchman Besseling compiled a seven under par 65 to hold a one shot lead over Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal and England’s Garrick Porteous.
Besseling, who narrowly missed out on a European Tour card after finishing 18th on last season’s European Challenge Tour, parred his first six holes but then birdied three of the next five.
A bogey on the short 12th proved a temporary blip as the 33-year-old responded with birdies at the next two and an eagle on the long 15th.
He almost made another eagle at the last after two excellent approach shots, but tapped in for birdie to complete an excellent day’s work.
Larrazabal mixed five birdies with an eagle and a bogey -a tee shot to three feet at the fifth arguably the highlight of his round – and was delighted with his start to the season.
“This is one of the best courses you can play throughout the year, you have the wildlife here,” he said.
“I played very solid. Since the fast time I set foot in this place I feel like I can play good here – it suits my eye. I played great, only a little mistake on 11 where I three-putted but the rest I played solid and I’m very happy with my start to the season.”
Porteous, who enjoyed a glittering amateur career and is now looking to make his mark in the professional ranks after coming through Qualifying School, made six birdies in a blemish-free round.
Spain’s Alejandro Cañizares was fourth on five under, while out on the course three-time winner Ernie Els rolled back the years with birdies from close range at the second and fourth to sit two under in the early stages of his round.