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Sterne soars to early Desert Classic lead

South African finishes one shot off course record on first day

Image Credit: AFP
Richard Sterne of South Africa tees off during the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Gulf News

Dubai: Omega Dubai Desert Classic first day leader Richard Sterne is refusing to get ahead of himself despite finishing a stroke off the course record on Thursday.

Six birdies on the front nine and four on the back gave the 31-year-old South African World No 165 a bogeyless ten under par 62, one off his compatriot Ernie Els’ 1994 course record.

Sterne is now just a stroke clear of Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and three shots in front of fellow Scotsmen; Scott Jamieson, Chris Doak and Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who are all tied for third. But he expects lower scores and a bunched leader board to come.

“It’s as good a start as I could have hoped for,” said Sterne, who has eight wins since turning professional in 2001, the most recent being The South African Open Championship in 2008, which helped him secure that season’s Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

“But it’s only day one,” he added. “After day three if I’m still leading, then it’s a different story and you’ve got a realistic chance of winning. If they gave you the trophy after the first round, then I’d be happy, but unfortunately they don’t.”

Sterne said: “I think the course is playing a little easier and the rough is not as up as it normally is — the field is not as strong, which I suppose is a good thing, but the guys can still play. With these guys, these days the depth [in talent] is much more than it used to be.

“Looking at the leaderboard, it looks like there are a lot of guys from four and five under par onwards, so it’s going to be quite a low-scoring event. I would imagine this year, maybe it would be somewhere around 21.”

He added: “It might be a little bit more bunched than the previous years, so you’ve just got to keep going. These guys keep going every day lower and lower, so if it happens, it happens.

“I’ll just look to put three more solid rounds together and hopefully come Sunday, that’s enough.”

Gallacher, 38, who hit two eagles, seven birdies and two bogeys, to card nine under par, one off the lead, said: “The greens have been so good and the course is in unbelievable condition. It was there to score today. I’m just pleased that I’ve done it on a day like this.”

Meanwhile Jamieson, 29, who shot an eagle with six birdies, bogeying once, leaving him three off the lead with seven under par along with Doak and Fleetwood, said: “The conditions were just perfect this morning, we didn’t have much wind and the greens were rolling great. So it’s just a great chance to post a low one.

He added: “I think the forecast is good for the rest of the week. But I think we’ll have some wind so I doubt the scoring will be as low as what we’ve seen today.”