(Reuters) - South Africa’s Justin Walters took a one-shot lead with a stunning nine-under par 63 in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews on Thursday.
Walters sank nine birdies, including five on the back nine, to lead four golfers — France’s Victor Perez, England’s Jordan Smith, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui — at the Old Course, St Andrews. Otaegui carded 64 at Kingsbarns.
The tournament is played over three courses, with one round played each on Carnoustie, the Old Course and Kingsbarns before the final round at St Andrews.
It was an emotional day for Walters who has struggled with injury and the death of his father this year. But the 38-year-old said he found solace on the same greens he had played on when his mother died.
“I’ve been swinging really well all year, mostly from about the U.S. Open when I qualified,” Walters said. “I got to the Irish Open and tore my calf really badly and really struggled to get right again after a while.
“I finally got over that and then I lost my dad. It was quite hard, I just kind of decided not to feel sorry for myself and... dust myself off and come in here.
“It has a healing quality, it’s hard to describe. I was here when we lost mum and I just thought I was back with him.”
Englishman Lee Westwood recorded the only hole-in-one of the day on the par-three eighth hole but finished six shots behind Walters.
His compatriot Matthew Southgate finished with a seven-under 65 — the lowest round of the day at Carnoustie to take a share of sixth place.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge