Frenchman Victor Riu overcame a double-bogey five on the 16th at Leopard Creek on Thursday to fire a four-under-par 68 to take a share of the early first round lead of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
He shared that lead in the €1.5-million tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour with defending champion Charl Schwartzel, and led by one from England’s Danny Willett, James Kingston and Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland.
“It was just one mistake on the 16th,” said Riu. “I hit a really poor shot which went straight in the water, and without that, it was a very good day. I’m very happy, and feeling good with my game after I didn’t play well last week.”
Riu missed the cut in the South African Open Championship last week after rounds of 71 and 74. “Last week was my first event on the European Tour for this year,” he said, “and I was on a break in France for two weeks and I couldn’t train a lot because it was very cold.
“So it was a tough start for me, and after I missed the cut, I had last weekend and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to practice and it was much better today. I’ve got a bit more confidence.”
Schwartzel was less pleased with his 68, opting not to speak to television or reporters after his 68 which included a double-bogey six on the first hole – he started on the 10th – and a bogey on 17. His troubles seemed to come from his driver, which left him right of the fairway in the rough on 17 where bogey was eventually a good score. He was also right of the fairway on 18, the 495-metre (541-yard) par-five with the island green which was playing easiest of all at Leopard Creek during the first round. He ended up with a par there when eagle was a possibility and birdie should have been a given. And he missed the fairway on one too.
It was a breezy, overcast and cool morning – very un-Leopard Creek-like weather – and that factored into the scores as players battled to get the ball to fly as far as it usually does at the course in the heat.
“The course was playing very long, because the ball wasn’t running while it was cool this morning,” said Riu. “But I was very happy with my driving. I was consistent and I was very straight.”
Schwartzel will want to take a leaf out of that book for his second round.