Branden Grace equals European Tour record with opening 60 to lead at Dunhill Links Championship
Last Updated: 05/10/12 9:29am
Branden Grace: Equalled the European Tour record with a round of 60 at Kingsbarns
South African Branden Grace set the early pace at the Dunhill Links Championship after equalling the European Tour record with a first round of 60 at Kingsbarns.
Already with three European Tour titles to his name this season, the 24-year-old from Pretoria bettered Lee Westwood's course record by two strokes after a round containing an eagle and 10 birdies - five of them coming in a row to finish with.
A total of 14 players have now shot 60 on the circuit - Darren Clarke has done it twice - and, like so many of the others before him, Grace came off saying: "It could have been a 59".
But despite his stellar effort, Grace only holds a two-shot lead over Victor Dubuisson. The Frenchman also posted a course record with a 62 at St Andrews and he too had a real chance to post the magical 59 having got to 11-under through 15 holes.
But, needing two birdies in his final three holes, Dubuisson could only finish bogey-par-par and had to settle for second place on the leaderboard.
Meanwhile, many of the tournament's big guns were left trailing in his wake after they battled with the far tougher Carnoustie.
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: "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 to record a 73, while Paul McGinley, favourite to take over from Jose Maria Olazabal as Europe's captain, struggled to a 76 and is down near the rear of the 168-strong field.
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.
First round leaderboard
(GB & Ire unless stated)
-12 B Grace (SA)
-10 V Dubuisson (Fra)
-9 T Olesen (Den)
-8 F Andersson Hed (Swe)
-8 A Noren (Swe)
-8 A Hall (Aus)
Click here for collated scores
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.
Grace switches to St Andrews on Friday, while nearest challenger Dubuisson will tackle Carnoustie.
Behind the leading duo, Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen sits in third on nine-under, while Swedish duo Alex Noren and Fredrik Andersson Hed are a shot further adrift on eight-under alongside Australia's Ashley Hall.