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Grace On Fire at Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Branden Grace blistered Kingsbarns with a 12-under 60 to take the opening-round lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. In addition to Kingsbarns, the European Tour event is taking place at the Old Course at St. Andrews and Carnoustie in Scotland.
The big South African carded 10 birdies and an eagle to shoot the lowest score in tournament history and lower the course record - a 62 posted by Lee Westwood in 2003 - by two strokes.
Grace leads 22-year-old Victor Dubuisson, who had a course-record 62 at St. Andrews, by two strokes and three over Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen, who went one stroke higher on the Old Course.
Both Grace and Dubuisson were eying a 59 to become the first player in European Tour history to post that magic number. Conditions were perfect, with sunny skies and very little wind on the Scottish coast.
"It could have been a 59, I told my caddie when I hit it stiff on 18 - 'Wow, that was close for a 59,' " said Grace.
"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."
Dubuisson, the former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world before turning pro in 2010, broke the Old Course record of 63, shot by Rory McIlroy during the 2010 British Open, a mark also shared by Luke Donald and Simon Dyson.
"It's very special as I had 10-under par in Italy last year but today I could have done better," said Dubuisson, who started on the 10th tee. He carded six birdies on his front nine and five more on the back. However, his chances of shooting 59 disappeared when he bogeyed the par-4 seventh (his 16th hole) and parred the final two.
"I was 11-under par on my 16th hole and hit it perfect and then my second took a big bounce over the back of the green, like in long grass, I had no chip and made a bad bogey. But then before that I thought about a 59 and with a few holes to play that's all I was thinking about so to have a bogey on 16 was disappointing, and no 59."
There are 10 major champions in the field along with three of the players on the victorious 2012 European Ryder Cup team. That trio all played the tough Carnoustie, where Martin Kaymer shot a 70, Peter Hanson a 72 and Paul Lawrie a 75.
Several athletes and entertainers are also playing in the pro-am portion of the tournament. They include actor-comedian Bill Murray, actor Greg Kinnear, rock musician Huey Lewis, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and paralympic star Oscar Pistorius.
Paired with English pro Paul Casey at Carnoustie, Phelps - the all-time Olympic gold-medal winner with 18 - was thrilled with the experience. "With all the history that is around you here, on these great courses it is just an honor for me to play in this tournament. I was a bit nervous on the first tee, but it wasn't too bad. To be honest, it was more nerve-racking watching the Ryder Cup last week.
"My partner Paul Casey was awesome to play with, and there were some good comments going back and forth between us during the round," added the swimming star, who teamed with Casey for a 72. "He gave me some great tips and, by the end, was just telling me to hit it hard. Carnoustie is a very challenging course, and I did find myself in a bit of rough at times, but it was a lot of fun.
"There is also a couple of great golf courses to look forward to playing over the next two days - Kingsbarns and the Old Course at St. Andrews - so it doesn't get much better."
For all the scores, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2012/tournamentid=2012074/leaderboard/index.html?showLeaderboard=Y.
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