JOHANNESBURG – Branden Grace was the top-placed South African after a first round two-under 70 at the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Resort, in South Carolina, starting on Thursday.
Grace’s efforts were enough to see him in a tie for eighth, three shots behind Canadian leader Corey Conners on five-under. Conners held a two-shot lead over six players on three-under.
Grace, a former world number 10 now ranked 92nd, began his round on the 10th and picked up birdies on the par five 11th and par four 12th. He would give a shot back at the tricky par three 14th, but bounced back with two more gains on the par four 14th and par five 15th to make the turn in three-under.
Bogies at the par four third and par three fifth dropped Grace back, but a final birdie at the par five seventh ensured his position inside the top-10.
Louis Oosthuizen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout signed for a pair of opening one-under 71’s. The two-top ranked SA players in the field were in a share of 16th.
Erik van Rooyen was a further shot back on level par 72, in a tie for 31st.
Dylan Frittelli and and 22-year-old Garrick Higgo – who is making his major debut – were also well-placed on one-over 73 in a share of 41st.
Dean Burmester carded a two-over 74 to hold 62nd position.
Another player making his first major appearance – Daniel van Tonder shot three-over 75 for a share of 77th alongside George Coetzee.
The 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel who has showed renewed form over recent weeks, had to settle for a four-over 76 in 97th place on the leaderboard.
In last place of the 11 SA players in the field is Brandon Stone after an opening six-over 78 in a tie for 127th.
African News Agency (ANA)