Allenby leads by one after Sun City first round

By Richard Asher

SUN CITY, South Africa (Reuters) - Australian Robert Allenby led the Sun City Challenge by a stroke after a first-round 68 at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.

Allenby carded a bogey-free round, featuring three birdies on the front nine and one on the back.

After hitting the first shot of the tournament straight down the middle and making a safe par, the Presidents Cup International team member went on to make the most of the par-fives with birdies on the second, ninth and 14th holes. His other birdie came at the par-four fifth.

"I was playing pretty consistently today," Allenby told reporters. "I was trying to keep it on the fairway, keep it on the green and make putts. I'm hitting my driver straight and I was definitely happy with the way I played."

Home players Retief Goosen and Tim Clark led the challenge to Allenby with both South Africans scoring three-under-par 69.

Clark recorded four birdies and one bogey in his round, the high point of which was the 30-foot birdie putt he holed on the 17th.

"Earlier this week I didn't feel good with my game at all, but it was a bit better today," said Clark. "I'm definitely not driving the ball as well as I could, but I didn't get in any trouble barring the eighth, where I drove it in the bush.

"I would have been disappointed with an even-par round today. The pins were fairly generous so there were birdies out there."

Goosen reached four-under with four birdies in the first 12 holes but the former U.S. Open champion dropped three shots when he bogeyed the 14th and double-bogeyed the 15th.

He made up for it by holing a sand wedge shot from 120 meters for an eagle on the par-four 17th.

"On 14 I had mud on the ball and it just came out hooking, and 15 was just a bad tee shot that hit a tree and went 30 yards left," said Goosen

"But I thought to myself that 16, 17 and 18 were sort of playing downwind and if I could make a couple of birdies it would still be a good round. And I ended up making eagle."

Last year's winner Henrik Stenson of Sweden was on two under with compatriot Robert Karlsson and American Hunter Mahan.

Masters champion Angel Cabrera was the only other member of the 12-man field to break par. He finished with a one-under-par 71.

Lightning and rain forced the players from the course at 2:05 p.m. (7:05 a.m. EST). Although the break lasted two hours, the field was able to complete the first round.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)