Anthony Michael of South Africa shot a 6-under 66 Thursday to lead after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the season-opening event on the 2011 European Tour schedule. The event is also sanctioned by southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
Michael made seven birdies and a bogey at Leopard Creek Country Club for a one-shot advantage in the first event of the 2011 Race to Dubai.
2010 ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Alfred Dunhill Championship is the first event of the 2011 European Tour season.
England’s Robert Rock, Germany’s Sebastian Buhl, Norway’s Marius Thorp and another local player, Dawie van der Walt, all shot 67s.
Defending champion Pablo Martin of Spain opened with a 69 for a share of 11th place, while British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 24, carded a 76 after making two double bogeys and two bogeys in his first nine holes.
In his debut season, the 25-year-old Michael opened with a blistering 4-under 31 through his first nine after birdies at Nos. 1, 4, 8 and 9. The 890th-ranked Michael made three more birdies and a bogey at the $1.33 million event in northeast South Africa.
“I think I hit only three fairways the whole day, but from the rough to the greens was good, and on the greens it was amazing,” said Michael, who sank a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and then a 25-footer for birdie on No. 9.
Behind him, Rock was flawless with five birdies and no bogeys, while Thorp finished with four successive birdies.
Spaniards Alvaro Velasco and Rafael Cabrera-Bello, South African players Keith Horne and Andrew Georgiou and Klas Eriksson of Sweden are tied for sixth after shooting 68s.
Martin shrugged off his jetlag to hole an eagle-2 on the 319-yard sixth hole after his drive pitched on the green and curved just past the cup to finish a foot away. He dropped shots on Nos. 9 and 14 before birdies on 15 and at the last.
“Not bad for (after) a 14-hour flight from New York,” Martin said. “I’m happy. How can I not be after that flight and that score?”
Oosthuizen took a 7 at the par-5 No. 2 and then a five at the short No. 7 hole, ending a disastrous opening nine with double bogey, bogey, bogey. He picked up two birdies and two more bogeys to be tied for 110th, 10 shots behind Michael.
The 39th-ranked Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, a five-time winner on the European Tour and the only golfer other than Oosthuizen in the world’s top 100 playing, shot a 70.
The story of the day, though, was Michael, who turned professional a year ago and who admits that his first love is baseball. The Johannesburg native represented South Africa at junior level in baseball and even went to the motherland of the sport, the United States, to try and pursue his dream.
He attended the Oklahoma City University but then realized that golf was the way to go.
"I played baseball for South Africa on a trip to Japan when I was 10," Michael said. "I was going to go to the United States to play baseball, but the sport kind of died in South Africa, so I decided golf was the way to go."