Branden Grace and Justin Walters led the South African challenge after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday, with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox top of the leaderboard.
Grace, the last South African winner of this tournament in 2017, and Walters opened with rounds of two-under-par 70.
At the top of the leaderboard, Fox signed for a sublime eight-under-par 64 to lead the field by one stroke. His nearest challenger is European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, who last played here in 2014 and rediscovered his form with a 65.
Grace was delighted to be contending after a difficult start on the front nine where he was two over through the first three holes.
“I don’t know what it is with that front nine. I’m always a little on the back foot and then I get things together. But it’s nice to be here and I’m honoured to be back,” said Grace.
But it was Fox who set the target on day one with his 64 that saw him drop only one shot on a golf course which he said has never treated him well before this.
“It feels a bit weird to have done that today. I had a lot of good numbers, managed to get the yardages right and I putted really nicely. It still feels a bit strange, to be honest. This golf course has kicked me in the butt several times, so maybe it was nice today and will bite me tomorrow.
“I couldn’t have wished for a better start. I figure if you can get to double digits under par around here for the most part you’re going to be pretty close come Sunday. To be most of the way there after the first round is pretty nice.”
Donald was just as surprised by his performance.
“A little bit unexpected, to be honest. I wasn’t showing much form coming into this week. I kept it in play well off the tee and my iron play was really good. I think I hit 15 greens today and around this course, that is very pleasing. It’s tricky with the altitude and the wind swirls a bit here, I got the distances right all day, gave myself a lot of good looks and made a couple of putts, especially on the back nine.”
Italy’s Guido Migliozzi is well placed on five under par.