Seve loving his return to Leopard Creek

Seve Benson loved his third visit to Leopard Creek Country Club and shot a flawless 64 to share the lead during round one of the €1-million Alfred Dunhill Championship on Thursday before play was suspended due to bad light.

“It’s very good to be back. I love playing here – it’s a great course. Apart from it being very hot,” said Benson.

And hot it was: The temperature reached 41 degrees. It was enough for ‘the black stuff’ to soften – not Darren Clarke’s favoured drink, but rather the tarmac, which eventually coated some of the golf-cart wheels and caused leaves to stick to them in ways reminiscent of tarring and feathering.

The golf, too, was very hot as Benson ignored the mercury when he carded eight-under-par and joined Jbe’ Kruger in a share of the lead at the close of day one, two shots clear of a four-way tie for third between George Coetzee, Alan McLean, George Murray and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet.

No dropped shots contributed greatly to Benson going so low, and he felt that his bogey-free round came due to tactical aggression. “I was aggressive in the right areas. Today when I had the chance to go for it I did. I didn’t get mixed in between, and that was the key,” he said.

Despite the heat, the 25-year-old Englishman started in the morning field and had a cool front nine, carding birdies at the second, fifth and sixth before turning at three-under. “It’s so hot that sometimes you have to take a few deep breaths. Everyone out there is affected by the heat,” he said.

Seve, whose father named him after his favourite golfer – the late Severiano Ballesteros – turned up the temperature after the turn and made a three successive birdies from the 10th to the 12th.

His thirst for birdies was finally quenched by a pair at the 14th and 15th and he closed out the first day with a trio of pars. “I feel like I read the greens really well, which is what you have to do because there is a bit of grain out there,” said Benson.

Kruger, who is also 25, started on the back stretch and was quick to get fired-up – he shot a trio of birdies from the 11th to the 13th.

An eagle at the 18th set him steady from a bogey at the 16th, and Kruger went on to card four birdies after the turn to share the lead at the close of day one. “I think it’s always an advantage to begin that way. But I’m a bit used to this type of weather from my last few months in Asia, so it suits me,” he said.

Coetzee dropped a lone shot at the seventh, but a cumulative seven birdies through the course of the day secured his share of third.

“It’s funny how the game works. I think I was just calm, and when I needed to I managed to scramble pars. I think most of the time today my bad shots went into the right places,” said Coetzee.

Benson is 163rd in the Race to Dubai and will be hunting a strong result to secure his place in the 2012 season. “I’ve been doing a couple of good drills, which is critical. And you can never complain about a good round – anything under par around this course is a good score. I’m just looking for more of the same tomorrow and the next few days,” he said.

Defending champion Pablo Martin had a real battle, and finished with a sad nine-over-par 81.

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