Charl Schwartzel overcame two bogeys in his opening three holes to post a two-under par 70 in the opening round of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
The 33-year-old South African was staring a poor start to his first round of the 2017-18 season in the face but birdied his 8th and 9th holes to get back to level for the day.
The 2011 Masters champion then bookended seven pars with birdies on the 1st and 9th, which via a long birdie putt from the fringe, to finish with a 70 – the same tally as two time defending champion and last season’s Player of the Year, Justin Thomas.
Thomas’ opened his defence with a birdie but followed that with a drop shot in what turned out to be a stop-start day for the PGA Champion. The American star settled for a share of 23rd place – six shots behind Cameron Smith after the Australian blitzed the field in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
South Africa’s only other representative this week – Branden Grace – settled for an opening 72 after bogeys at 15 and 16 saw him undo much of his early good work.