Wil Besseling declared it “a great start to the season” after a seven under par 65 gave him the first round lead at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The Dutchman was amongst those to take advantage of a decision to give players special dispensation to wear shorts for the first time, with Leopard Creek Country Club drenched in sunshine.
After Daniel Greene hit the first shot of the 2020 Race to Dubai Ranking Presented by Rolex, Besseling compiled the lowest round of the day to lead by one from Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal and England’s Garrick Porteous.
“I played nicely,” said Besseling. “It’s a great start to the season, and a great round. I’m very happy with my 65 today. I had it going nicely on the par fives. I was able to get there in two with irons and converted the birdies, and an eagle on 15 really helped.
“I played well from the start and gave myself opportunities and I didn’t drop. I had a good par-save on eight, and a nice birdie on nine. From there on, I got some better chances and some putts dropped. I’m really happy with a 65 and a birdie on the last.”
Besseling, who narrowly missed out on a European Tour card after finishing 18th on last season’s 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.
Larrazábal 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 last 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.
“I was just at Q-School last week, and just got my card, so it’s great to start with a bogey-free six-under,” he said.
“I think just plotting my way round. I did that very well last week for six rounds at Q-School, but to bring it to a tournament is exciting.
“I’m sharp and in a good frame of mind, but it’s a lot of golf, so you’re pretty tired. But with minimal time difference from England travelling down, it’s not a big issue. I’ve been here before in 2014, so I know what to expect – it’s such a great place. I really enjoy it.”
Horne was among the late starters, and mixed seven birdies with a single dropped shot, with Spain’s Alejandro Cañizares fifth on five under.