Paul Dunne in share of lead at Alfred Dunhill Championship

Irishman shares the first round lead with Charl Schwartzel in Malelane, South Africa

Paul Dunne of Ireland plays his second shot on the 18th during day one of The Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Golf Club in Malelane, South Africa. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Paul Dunne of Ireland plays his second shot on the 18th during day one of The Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Golf Club in Malelane, South Africa. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

Ireland’s Paul Dunne is in a first round share of the lead after an impressive start at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Malelane, South Africa.

The Greystones native, seeking a first European Tour win, hit an opening day 66 to sit at the top of the leaderboard alongside South African Charl Schwartzel.

Dunne recovered from a double bogey on the ninth to hit four birdies on the back nine, making eight gains overall at the Leopard Creek Country Club - with that double bogey the only blemish on his card.

He made the perfect start to his opening round, following up birdies at the first and fourth with back-to-back gains at the seventh and eighth.

The 24-year-old finished his front nine with a double bogey at the par-four ninth but did not let that derail his round, picking up shots at the 11th and 13th to return to four under.

Dunne made his seventh gain of the day at the 15th before curling in his birdie putt at the 17th to get to six under.

Following his round he explained that if he can continue to drive the ball well he feels he has a good chance of sealing that maiden win in the coming days.

“For me I feel if I can get the ball in play off the tee, with how my irons are feeling and with how good the greens are, I feel if I drive the ball well I’ll give myself loads of chances,” said Dunne.

“I’m feeling good. And look, I have the rest of the weekend - there’s a long way to go.”

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel fired a birdie at the last to take a share the lead. The home favourite, a four time winner of this event, reached the turn in 34, with the only birdie of his front nine coming at the short fifth.

He picked up a shot at the tenth before making another gain at the 11th after coming within inches of holing his approach shot.

Further birdies at the 13th and 15th followed, and when Schwartzel tapped in his birdie putt at the last, he found himself tied at the top.

Home hopes Jean Hugo and Brandon Stone were among the group one shot behind the co-leaders, alongside Max Orrin, Pablo Larrazábal, Alexander Björk and Scott Jamieson.

Meanwhile Michael Hoey enjoyed a round of 69, to leave him tied for 18th place. Jack Hume is one over par, his round disrupted by bogeys on the first, third and 15th holes.

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke started his 2017 tour season with a disappointing 78 that included a woeful nine at the par-five 18th hole.

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