Henrik Stenson eagled the 17th hole to place second in the first round of the South African Open at the 72-par Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Thursday.
The former world No. 4 ended the sweltering day with a six-under-par 66 in a tie with newcomer Matthew Carvell from South Africa.
Hoping for his first title since the 2009 Players Championship, the Swede started strong with birdies on the first, second, sixth and eighth holes, before a bogey on the three-par 12th. He recovered well with another birdie on the 15th and a long tee for the surprise eagle.
“There’s not much to hold back when you have a 330 meters to the pin,” he said. “You give it your all, and I hit a really nice drive and it came up on the fringe about 15 foot away. I managed to make the little putt, which was nice.”
Six-time European title champion Stenson hopes to improve his 59th position in the Race to Dubai and stay under the top 60 to go to Jumeirah Golf Estates on Dec. 8 to Dec. 11.
South Africa’s Merrick Bremmer leads after the first round, with a course record eight-under-par 64 in Ekurhuleni east of Johannesburg.
The 26-year-old Pretoria native was little fazed by big competitors, with the likes of Stenson, Charl Scwhartzel and Martin Kaymer in the field.
“It’s a big field, and obviously I’m not as high up as those boys, but anyone can win a golf tournament,” he said.
Scotland’s Craig Lee and South African Alex Haindl were tied in fourth place on 67.
Meanwhile, amateur player Terence Boardman from South Africa made a hole in one on the 12th hole, using a five-iron.
Local favorite Charl Schwartzel fought back from a double-bogey on the 12th to place sixth with four-under-par 68.
He remained confident to win his first SA Open, at 102 the second-oldest tournament in the world after The Open Championship.