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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Walters cards nine-under to hit the front in Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

After a difficult season, the South African took a one-shot lead at St Andrews.

Walters was in top form at St Andrews.
Walters was in top form at St Andrews.
Image: Getty Images

JUSTIN WALTERS HIT top form at St Andrews as he took a one-shot lead at the end of the first round in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Walters has struggled with injury and the sadness of the death of his father this year. He has failed to register a top-20 finish in 23 starts on the 2019 European Tour heading into this event, which is held at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.

But the 38-year-old South African rallied with a superb nine-under-par 63 on Thursday, taking a one-shot lead ahead of Ryan Fox, Victor Perez and Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui, who was playing at Kingsbarns.

Despite the adversity of this season, Walters used memories of being at St Andrews with his father to spur him on.

“It was quite hard. I just kind of decided not to feel sorry for myself, really, and kind of dust myself off, and just coming here it has a healing quality,” Walters said in a European Tour interview.

“It’s hard to describe. I was here with my dad when we lost Mum, and it felt like I was with them both.”

Walters started his round on the 10th, picking up shots throughout the back nine as he drew level with early leader Russell Knox.

He later hit the flag on the seventh but made par before sinking a 20-foot putt at the ninth to edge ahead.

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Matthew Southgate – one of six players on seven under – carded a 65 for the lowest round of the day at Carnoustie, and at the same course Lee Westwood made his second hole-in-one of the European Tour season.

Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, a two-time champion at this event, finished the round at six-under, while Rory McIlroy carded a two-under 70.

BMW PGA Championship winner Danny Willett could only record level par and was tied for 122nd.

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