Leader of the pack

KINGSBARNS, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 04:  Branden Grace of South Africa hits an apporach shot on the 9th during the first round of The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links on October 4, 2012 in Kingsbarns, Scotland.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

KINGSBARNS, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 04: Branden Grace of South Africa hits an apporach shot on the 9th during the first round of The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links on October 4, 2012 in Kingsbarns, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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IN THE Alfred Dunhill Cup a spectacular first round effort by South African golfer Branden Grace saw him take the lead yesterday (Thursday).

The big-hitting South African celebrated in the sun with a spectacular 12-under-par 60 at Kingsbarns – the lowest round of the year on the European Tour - to open up a two shot lead on the first day of the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

His faultless round, which included ten birdies and an eagle, was the lowest score in the history of the Championship and smashed the course record at Kingsbarns by two shots, beating Lee Westwood’s 62 in 2003, the year when Westwood went on to win.

The 24-year-old from Pretoria, who leads the Order of Merit on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, has had a stunning 2012, winning three European Tour events – the Johannesburg Open, the Volvo Golf Championship and the Volvo China Open.

He now leads by two shots from France’s 22-year-old Victor Dubuisson, who had a course record 62 at St Andrews. One shot further back is Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, who scored 63 on the Old Course.

The tournament, conceived as a celebration of links golf, is played over three of the world’s best known and respected links courses - the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the highly regarded Kingsbarns Golf Links.

On a day made for good scoring with a warm sun and very little breeze, it was the positive golf of Grace which thrilled the galleries. He said: “It could have been a 59, I told my caddie when I hit it stiff on 18 – ‘wow, that was close for a 59’. This has to be one of my best rounds.

“I just gave myself a lot of chances and made everything I looked at - a lot of 15 footers to tap ins the whole day. Frankly it could have been one or two better which would have been really nice. The year just keeps getting better and better, sometimes I pinch myself, so it’s nice to look forward to what’s to come,” added Grace.

France’s Victor Dubuisson, from Nice, had a successful amateur career, winning the 2009 European Amateur Championship. As an amateur, he finished third in 2009 in the Allianz EurOpen de Lyon on the Challenge Tour before turning professional in 2010.

He said: “It’s the Home of Golf and it’s a very special course. There are so many people who played here, so many stars, so yes, it’s very special for me to play 62 here. I had ten under last year in Italy, but today I could even have done better.”