Dunhill Links Championship 2012: Branden Grace takes course record
IT was amazing from Grace. But he reckoned it could have been even better. A 12-under-par 60, which lowered Lee Westwood’s course record at Kingsbarns by two shots, was a tasty start from Branden Grace in the £3.5 million Dunhill Links Championship.
The South African reckoned, however, that he’d missed a good chance to become the first player on the European Tour to sign for a 59.
On a fairly benign day in this neck of the woods, Grace bagged an eagle and ten birdies. His splendid effort included an “Ian Poulter”, which surely has to be the name henceforth for a run of five straight birdies after the Englisman pulled that feat off as he kept Europe’s Ryder Cup hopes flickering in Chicago last weekend.
“It was good,” said Grace of a score that was five shots better than anyone else managed on the first day at Kingsbarns, one of the three traditional venues used for this event. “I gave myself a lot of chances and, even though I never really felt comfy over the putter, I made just about everything I looked at. I had a lot of 15-footers to tap-ins the whole day and it could actually have been one or two better.”
At the short par-4 fourth, for instance, he left a birdie putt in the jaws of the hole. Having started at the tenth, that was his 14th and he admitted: “Just before I hit that putt, I thought about getting a 59 as I know there’s never been one on the European Tour. The fact I didn’t do that is a little bit of a disappointment, but I’ll take a 60.”
The 24-year-old from George, who was playing on the Challenge Tour this time last year but has four wins under his belt this season – three on the European Tour and one last week on the Sunshine Tour – reckons it won’t be long until someone claims that place in the record books.
“I think it’s getting very close,” he added. “Indeed, if the next couple of days here are going to be good with no wind, you might see one this week.”
Playing his opening round a few miles along the coast at St Andrews, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson also had the magical mark in his sights around the same time. Standing at 11-under with three to play, he needed two more birdies to become that history-maker but then dropped a shot at the seventh – his 16th.
“It was as though I was in a dream before I got to 11-under but then I started to think about a 59 and made a bogey. After my second shot at the seventh, I immediately thought, ‘oh no, it’s finished now’.”
His 62, nonetheless, was also a course record and saw him top the St Andrews leaderboard at the end of the first round by a shot from Dane Thorbjorn Olesen. On a decent day there for the Scandinavian contingent, two Swedes, Fredrik Andersson Hed and Alexander Noren, both signed for 64s.
Richie Ramsay’s 65 on the Old Course, where David Drysdale and Stephen Gallacher were just one and two shots respectively behind their compatriot, was the pick of the day’s efforts from a 13-strong “Tartan Army” playing in the event. George Murray, runner-up to Michael Hoey 12 months ago, also opened his title bid at the tournament HQ and signed for a 69, two fewer than the defending champion posted at Carnoustie.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West