French, Polish golfers lead in South Africa as Nienaber battles

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Richard Roussel from France shared the Alfred Dunhill Championship first round lead on 65 Thursday, while South African big-hitter Wilco Nienaber carded a disappointing 71.

Meronk and Roussel shrugged off modest recent European Tour form with seven-under rounds over the Leopard Creek Country Club course near Malelane in northeastern South Africa.

Scott Jamieson from Scotland lies third after a 66 and Richard Bland of England carded a 67 for fourth place.

After three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, 334-ranked Roussel birdied five straight holes from 10 and picked up another at the last.

Meronk eagled the sixth and final holes, birdied four and bogeyed one as he seeks a maiden European Tour title after turning professional four years ago.

Nienaber, the 20-year-old rising star of South African golf, finished runner-up in the Joburg Open, with a 439-yard altitude-assisted drive during the first round capturing international attention.

He seemed set for a low score after four birdies within six holes, but his round then went topsy-turvy with a double bogey, four bogeys and three birdies.

Nienaber, a winner of 21 amateur titles before turning professional last year, will hope for much better form Friday to avoid the embarrassment of missing the cut.