Paul Dunne had to sweat to save his European Tour card in 2016 but not even the threat of snakebite stopped him firing a super 66 to grab a share of the lead with Alfred Dunhill Championship specialist Charl Schwartzel in his first outing of the new campaign.
Despite a double bogey six at the ninth, where he drove deep into a bush and decided not to risk getting bitten by one of Leopard Creek’s slippery locals, the Greystones man compensated with a tally of eight birdies.
At six under par, Dunne and Schwartzel are just one clear of a six-strong chasing pack formed by Q-School graduate Max Orrin, Scot Scott Jamieson, South Africans Jean Hugo and Brandon Stone, Spaniard Pablio Larrazábal and Swedish Challenge Tour graduate Alexander Bjork.
“I pushed my drive on nine to the right, and it wasn’t too bad until it hit the cart path,” said 24-year old Dunne, who sandwiched his double bogey six at the ninth between birdies at the first, fourth, seventh, eighth, (where he holed out from the fairway), 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th.
“It went deep into the bush and I wasn’t fancying going in there. It’s not worth getting bitten by a snake.”
Schwartzel has eight top twos and four wins in his 11 starts in the event and he’s on track for that fifth win after he followed a one under front nine with a homeward 32.
“Patience was the key,” Schwartzel said. “That’s true for any tournament. You don’t want to put yourself out of it, which you can very easily do, so on the front nine, I was just really grinding hard to make pars, and when I did find some good shots, I capitalised by making birdies, which was nice.”
Michael Hoey made a good start to life without a full European Tour card after missing out at Q-School as he made five birdies and two bogeys in a 69 worth a share of 18th on three under.
Rookie Jack Hume bogeyed the first and third before mixing two birdies with one more birdie for aone over 73 and a share of 91st while losing European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke finished with a quadruple bogey nine for a six over 78 to lie tied 141st.