Englishman David Horsey fired seven birdies on his back nine for bogey free round of 61 to take a one shot lead in the opening round of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
The four-time European Tour winner came home in just 28 shots to add to earlier birdies on the fifth and sixth holes, setting the early pace on nine under par at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Horsey missed the cut in the first two events of the European Tour’s Middle East swing, but he holds a one stroke advantage over former Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher, of Scotland, who posted ten birdies in an eight under par round of 62.
“It’s a shock actually,” said Horsey. “I’ve been playing rubbish the last couple of weeks. I didn’t feel like I controlled my ball in the first two events.
Horsey came home in just 28 shots today.
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“I had a conversation with a pal back home last night, talking a few things through and suggested something that I work on away from the tournament. Knowing me, I thought, well, can’t get any worse, so I may as well try it and here we are. It’s nice to have a feeling you can sort of wake up and pick up straight away. I didn’t really feel like I missed many shots. I holed a couple of nice, lengthy putts as well and it all adds up to 61.”
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger is two shots further back on six under par after signing for a 65, with U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau amongst a group on five under.
“I’m definitely very pleased,” said DeChambeau. “I was driving it a bit all over the place for the most part out there. Hit some good drives to six and seven. But was definitely struggling with the driver and a little bit of the irons, and I have to clean that up for tomorrow. If I can do that and putt it the way I did today, I’ll certainly be pleased.”
World Number One Dustin Johnson opened with a three under par 67, as did his two playing partners, Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner Tyrrell Hatton and reigning Race to Dubai Champion Lee Westwood.