Charl Schwartzel overcame two bogeys in his opening three holes to post a two-under-par 70 in the opening round of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
The 33-year-old South African was facing a poor start to his first round of the 2017-18 season, but birdied his 8th and 9th holes to get back to level for the day.
The 2011 Masters champion then bookended seven pars with a birdy on the 1st and a long birdie putt from the fringe on the 9th, to finish with a 70 – the same tally as two-time defending champion and last season’s Player of the Year, Justin Thomas.
Thomas’ opened his defence with a birdie, but followed that with a drop shot in what turned out to be a stop-start day for the PGA Champion. The American star settled for a share of 23rd place – six shots behind Cameron Smith, after the Australian blitzed the field in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
South Africa’s only other representative this week – Branden Grace – settled for an opening 72 after bogeys at 15 and 16 saw him undo much of his earlier good work.