Malelane, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Branden Grace went low on Thursday with a 10-under 62 and he holds a 3-shot lead after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Grace, who missed the course record by one shot at Leopard Creek Country Club, is a four-time winner on the European Tour, all of which came in 2012. Grace's most recent win came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October of 2012.
Rookie Jake Roos also had a strong showing to start his season as he shot a 7- under 65 and he holds sole possession of second place.
Coming off a 4-shot victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week, Danny Willett has his name in the mix again after shooting a 6-under 66. Willett is tied for third with rookie and fellow Englishman Matt Ford.
Nacho Elvira, Michael Hollick and Tjaart van der Walt are all tied for fifth at 5-under 67.
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel, who has won here on his home soil the last two years and three times overall, carded a 3-under 69 and he is tied for 21st.
Grace was on from the start as he drained two birdies on his first three holes at one and three. After making two consecutive pars on four and five, Grace made back-to-back gains on six and seven, putting him at minus-4 for the day.
The 26-year-old South African did not let up on the back nine either. After making the turn with a pair of pars on eight and nine, Grace made two more birdies on 10 and 11. Another par on 12 preceded Grace's seventh birdie on the par-5 13th.
Grace finished strong as he rattled off three gains on his final four holes at 15, 16 and 18 to complete his bogey-free round that nearly broke the course record.
"I hit the ball superbly from the start to the finish," Grace said. "I can't remember the last time I hit 18 greens in a row, which is pretty nice, especially around this place, where there are some daunting approaches. It's a good feeling going into the rest of the tournament."
Grace's compatriot Roos went off earlier in the morning and held the lead for a while before Grace caught up to him. Roos, playing the back nine first, exploded out of the gate when he holed out for eagle with a 5-iron on the par-4 10th and he followed that up with a birdie on No. 11.
Roos dropped his first and only shot of the day with a bogey on No. 12, but he made up for it with a trio of birdies from No. 14, getting him to minus-5.
Seven straight pars from 17 had Roos cruising before he ended on a high note with two birdies on his final four holes at six and nine.
"I felt comfortable and swung quite nicely," said Roos. "I hit a lot of good shots and had a lot of short birdie putts on my front nine, and I was able to take advantage of a couple."
Willett continues to play exceptional golf as he went bogey-free in his first round with three birdies on both the front and back nines.
Ford started off slow with a bogey on one, but he later went on a huge run with seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 4. Another bogey on 13 slowed Ford down some, but he responded three holes later with a gain on 16 before finishing up with a pair of pars on 17 and 18.
NOTES: Grace was one shot off of the course record 61, which was shot by Thomas Aiken in 2009 ... Along with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Grace also won the Joburg Open, Volvo Golf Champions and Volvo China Open in 2012 ... Schwartzel's last two wins on tour were at this event. He also has four runner-up finishes here ... Willett has made just one bogey in his last 73 holes.