ST ANDREWS, September 26, 2019 – Walters leads, but Fleetwood and Hatton are in the mix.
South Africa’s Justin Walters shot an impressive 63 on a bright, blustery day on the Old Course to take a one shot lead in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
One shot behind him are England’s Jordan Smith, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, France’s Victor Perez and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui on 64, with a group of six other players a further shot behind.
However they will all be looking over their shoulders at the menacing figure of Tommy Fleetwood, one of the hot favourites. There was no disgusing his intent as he shot a six-under-par 66 at Carnoustie, the most difficult of the three courses.
Fleetwood, who has been runner-up twice in the Alfred Dunhill Links and was second in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July, said: “Carnoustie is clearly a course I feel pretty comfortable on. It is always good to get off to a good round here and a good start.
“I’d love to have this event on my C.V. I’ve always enjoyed it and played well. There’s something about playing at St. Andrews. I don’t know what it is, but you walk in, and there’s pictures of everybody that’s won it and I’ve always thought I’d like to be one of them.
“It’s a long way to go, but I’ve done all right in the past and hopefully on Sunday I have another chance.”
Fleetwood now moves on to Kingsbarns, as does two-time winner Tyrrell Hatton, who also shot a 66 at Carnoustie and is trying to become the first man to win a record three Alfred Dunhill titles. First round leader Walters relived the pain he has been suffering over the last few months after his stunning 63.
The 38-year-old South African said: “I’ve been swinging really well all year since the US Open when I qualified, then I tore my hamstring really badly. I finally got over that, and then I lost my dad.
“It was quite hard. I just decided not to feel sorry for myself and dust myself off and come here. It has a healing quality. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. I was here with my dad when we lost mum, and just thought I was back with him.”
Walters said he felt he was in control of his game and able to make things happen. “I haven’t shot anything under 69 or 68 in a long time. To do it here at St. Andrews is special,” he said.