In-form Bezuidenhout among six leading South African Open

Sun City (South Africa) (AFP) –


Christiaan Bezuidenhout carried the form which won him the Alfred Dunhill Championship last weekend into the South African Open on Thursday, firing a lead-sharing 67 in the first round.

His five-under-par round over the Gary Player Country Club at the Sun City resort in northwestern South Africa was matched by five other golfers in the European Tour/Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event.

Bezuidenhout was joined by fellow South Africans Dean Burmester, Ruan Korb and Jacques Kruyswijk, Austrian Matthias Schwab and Italian Aron Zemmer.

South African Dylan Frittelli, joint fifth at the Masters last month, and Matthieu Pavon from France share seventh place, one shot behind the leaders at a course designed by South African golf legend Player.

Wilco Nienaber, the 20-year-old South African big hitter who slammed a tee shot 439 yards in the Joburg Open two weeks ago, is among four contenders who lie two shots behind the frontrunners.

Bezuidenhout, chasing a third European Tour title after winning the Andalucia Masters last year and the Dunhill, carded six birdies and one bogey.

His Dunhill success at a course bordering the world renowned Kruger National Park game reserve lifted him 20 places in the world rankings to 41, the second highest South African after Louis Oosthuizen (20).

The rankings of the other joint leaders in Sun City range from Schwab at 109 to Zemmer at 1,011, and among the five only Burmester has won on the European Tour.

Schwab was alone among the top six in having a bogey-free card with his round including an eagle at the par five first and three birdies on the back nine.

Like Bezuidenhout, Korb and Zemmer had six birdies and one bogey and Burmester and Kruyswijk both carded seven birdies and two bogeys in their opening rounds.

Frittelli, fourth among South Africans on the world rankings at 70, had a front nine to forget as he bogeyed three holes and birdied just one.

But six back-nine birdies left him well placed to emulate compatriot and defending champion Branden Grace, who is not competing this week.

The South African Open was first staged in 1903 and is the second oldest national golf championship after the British Open.