SUN CITY, South Africa (AFP) - Sweden's Henrik Stenson bolstered his bid for a second Race to Dubai title on Thursday (Nov 10) after finishing the opening round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge one stroke behind the leading trio.
The British Open champion made three straight birdies at 15, 16 and 17 on a tough day of scoring at the Gary Player Country Club to register a three-under round of 69.
Stenson trails Chile's Felipe Aguilar, South Korea's Wang Jeung-hun and Englishman Ross Fisher at the top of the leaderboard in South Africa, but is set to gain considerable ground on Danny Willett in the Race to Dubai rankings.
He could lift the Harry Vardon Trophy - awarded to the European order of merit winner - for a second time in four years with victory in Sun City, provided Willett finishes outside the top two.
Masters champion Willett, second to Stenson in the standings ahead of next week's season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai, struggled to a three-over score of 75.
"It would be nice to wrap up the Race to Dubai, but I just want to play as well as I can for these two weeks and see where it takes me," said Stenson.
"Of course, you're always going to look a little bit and see what the other guys are doing, but at the end of the day I've got to focus on my game and I managed to do that, so I'm happy with today's work."