MALELANE, South Africa (AP) – England's Seve Benson and Jbe Kruger of South Africa shot 8-under 64s to share the first-round clubhouse lead in sweltering heat at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Thursday.
Benson and Kruger were two shots clear when play was suspended for bad light with 24 players still to finish. Temperatures hit 105 degrees during the joint European Tour and Sunshine Tour event at Leopard Creek Golf Club.
Jean-Baptiste Gonnet of France, George Murray and Alan McLean of Scotland, and George Coetzee of South Africa were tied for third at 6 under.
Benson had eight birdies and didn't drop a shot for his lowest round on the European Tour, while Kruger had seven birdies and an eagle.
Two-time defending champion Pablo Martin of Spain opened with an 81 that included five bogeys and three double-bogeys, likely ending his bid to become the fifth player to win a European Tour event three times in a row.
The 25-year-old Benson – named after late golfing great Seve Ballesteros – made an impressive start to a tournament he has to win to secure his tour card for next year.
He birdied Nos. 2, 5 and 6 and put three straight birdies together starting at No. 10 to put him in position for his first European Tour win.
“I was aggressive in the right areas. When I had the chance to go for it I did,'' Benson said. “It's so hot that sometimes you have to take a few deep breaths. Everyone out there is affected.''
The Alfred Dunhill Championship is the first stop on a five-tournament swing in South Africa for the European Tour over the next two months.
It's followed by the South African Open next week, and then in January by the Africa Open, Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions event, which was relocated from Bahrain.