McGrane fails to stick with pace
THE 2011 Race to Dubai opened up at 6.20 am local time at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Leopard Creek yesterday, but by nightfall the Irish challenge was left in the shadows cast by a host of fast starters.
Damien McGrane ground his way to a steady level-par 72 opening bid, but this left him six shots adrift of 25-year-old South African Michael Anthony, who shot 66.
Anthony led by one from a group of four on 67, which included Robert Rock, still seeking his first Tour win, and ever to be remembered in Ireland as the man who lost 'that' play-off at Baltray in the 2009 Irish Open to Shane Lowry. nd Rock was joined on this mark by South African Dawie Van der Walt, Norway's Marius Thorp and Sebastian Buhl of Germany.
Thoughts of victory were far from the minds of Michael Hoey, Gary Murphy and Jonathan Caldwell. Hoey and Murphy -- the latter lost his card this year -- were among 23 players tied for 73rd after each player carded a 74, while Caldwell was way down the field on 79.
Caldwell, a Walker Cup team-mate of Rory McIlroy's in 2007, turned pro in 2008, but has yet to make a breakthrough. He was holding his round relatively steady at two-over par with five holes to go when disaster struck.
A triple-bogey seven on the par-four 14th was followed by another seven on the par-five 15th, but Caldwell did well to restrict the damage after those hammer blows by making par on each of his final three holes.
Defending champion Pablo Martin of Spain travelled from New York for the tournament. He had a moderate day on the fairways, returning a three-under-par 69. It could have been better, but he declared himself satisfied with his outing. "I'm happy," said Martin. "How can I not be happy after that flight and that score?"
Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the British Open, has played just five tournaments since his victory at St Andrews in July due to an ankle injury he suffered while out hunting.
Oosthuizen, the world No 24, is the highest ranked player at Leopard's Creek, where fellow high-profile South Africans Charl Schwartzel and 2008 winner Richard Sterne are also competing.
The Open champion finished last in the 12-man elite field at the Nedbank Challenge last weekend and has plenty of work to do here after a 74 yesterday.
Schwartzel, the 2004 winner of this event, was reasonably satisfied with two-under-par 70, while Sterne didn't cover himself in glory with 73.
Leader Michael Anthony set a fast pace with five birdies in his first 10 holesm, but his challenge now will be to build on that 66 -- a task he is relishing. "I find that I play very well under pressure," he said. "I enjoy having people around me."
Anthony's previous best showing in a European Tour event was in the Africa Open last January, when he won €7,000 for a tied-35 finish.
Shot of the day was a 170-yard punched mid-iron over water by ex-Ryder Cup star David Howell to tap-in distance on the par-five 18th.
Scoring was good, but it might have been even better, but for the challenging pin placements. They were some of the toughest pin positions on a Thursday that tournament regulars have encountered.
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