Richard Sterne led the way on a morning of spectacular scoring at the start of the European TourÂs Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Ten birdies in his first 16 holes gave the five-time European Tour winner a two-stroke lead over Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher.
ÂI couldnÂt have asked for a better start really,Â said Sterne. ÂI enjoy this golf course and that shows with the good scoring.Â
Scott Jamieson, Gallacher’s compatriot, and England’s Tommy Fleetwood were in with seven-under-par 65s, while Lee Westwood began his 2013 campaign with a confidence-boosting 67 Â the same as 56-year-old American Mark OÂMeara.
Sterne, also playing for the first time this year, battled a serious back injury in 2010 and 2011, but was joint runner-up in the ISPS Handa Wales Open last June.
ÂOne always wants to improve, and I do want to win again,Â he said. ÂItÂs a goal for this year Â itÂs a goal every week for all of us Â but itÂs not so easy to do any more. ItÂs been a while since IÂve won but if I keep doing the hard work, it will come eventually.Â
He birdied three of his first four, finished a back nine 31 with three more and then picked up further shots at the second, fourth, sixth and seventh to threaten the course record of 61 set by compatriot Ernie Els 19 years ago.
ÂI knew that Ernie had shot 61 here a while ago, but I always thought it was impossible to get close to that,Â said Sterne. ÂBut I got about as close as you could today.Â
Sterne had to settle for two closing pars, but while he missed out on the course record by one, his 62 was the lowest round of his European Tour career.
ÂI hit the ball from tee to green pretty well,Â he said. ÂI think the longest put I made was only 15 or 18 feet, and I had a lot of two-putts for birdies on the par-fives. My opening nine could have been really special: I had three two-putts on the par-fives when I had good chances for eagle. But IÂm quite happy with the day.Â
Gallacher reduced the gap to one with three successive birdies from the 15th and with the par-five last to come had hopes of at least joining Sterne at the top.
Other South Africans who had completed their rounds included Justin Walters on four-under, Jaco van Zyl on three-under, Garth Mulroy and Darren Fichardt on one-under, and Hennie Otto on one-over.
With reporting from www.europeantour.com