South African specialist David Drysdale was joined by Grant Forrest and Connor Syme in producing a promising first day of the new European Tour season for the Scottish contingent in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Drysdale, who finished second behind American David Lipsky in this event just under a year ago, opened with a four-under-par 68 at Leopard Creek this time around to end the first day alongside Forrest in joint-sixth, with Syme also handily-placed after his 69.
Drysdale, who is still seeking a maiden title triumph on the circuit as he closes in on his 500th appearance, dropped a shot at his second hole before picking up five birdies, including three in a row around the turn.
On a day when Dutchman Wil Besseling set the pace with a 65 that included an eagle and six birdies, Forrest started the 2020 campaign on fire before seeing his round into a rollercoaster ride.
With new caddie John McClure on his bag, the 26-year-old stormed to the top of the leaderboard after picking up five birdies in his opening six holes. He then moved to seven-under before two holes back-to-back - he followed a bogey at the seventh with a triple-bogey 7 at the next - undid most of his good work.
But, to his credit, Forrest bounced back from that stutter to finish with a birdie for his 68 on one of the most punishing courses on the circuit.
On his return to the top circuit after graduating from the Challenge Tour, Syme also made an encouraging start with an effort that contained five birdies.
David Law, winner of the Vic Open last season, opened with a par-72 along with South African-based Scot Doug McGuigan while Calum Hill, another new card holder after stepping up from the second-tier circuit, had to settle for a 73.
Beseling, who narrowly missed out on securing a main tour card for the new season after finishing 18th in the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca, leads by a shot from South African Keith Horne, Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal and Englishman Garrick Porteous.
“I played nicely,” said 33-year-old Besseling, who was among the players to take advantage of a decision give players dispensation to wear short for the first time on a tournament day on the European Tour.
“It’s a great start to the season, and a great round. I’m very happy with my 65. I had it going nicely on the par-5s. 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.”
Backing up Horne near the top of the leaderboard are two other home players, Branden Grace and Thomas Aiken, on 68, with former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel also sitting in the top 20 after a 70.