Golf: Back nine birdie blitz spurs Schwartzel charge at Leopard Creek

Defending champion Schwartzel (above in a file photo) is aiming for a fifth Dunhill title.
Defending champion Schwartzel (above in a file photo) is aiming for a fifth Dunhill title.PHOTO: AFP

MALELANE, South Africa (REUTERS) - Five birdies on the back nine from home favourite Charl Schwartzel catapulted the South African into a share of the lead after the first round of the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Championship on Thursday (Dec 1).

Defending champion Schwartzel, aiming for a fifth Dunhill title, is tied with Irishman Paul Dunne at six under-par at the Leopard Creek Country Club, with six players a further shot back.

That group includes Scotland's Scott Jamieson, who carded an eagle, seven birdies and four bogeys in a rollercoaster opening round.

If Schwartzel, 32, can keep going and win on Sunday he will become only the fourth player to win the same European Tour event five times, joining Bernard Langer, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods in an exclusive club.

He failed to fire on his front nine and turned at one under-par, but found his touch on the greens heading back towards the clubhouse and added five birdies in a faultless round.

Dunne, 24, is seeking a first European Tour win and his card included eight birdies, but was spoiled by a double-bogey on the par-four ninth.

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke started his 2017 tour season with a disappointing 78 that included a woeful nine at the par-five 18th hole.