Englishman David Horsey fired seven birdies on his back nine for bogey free round of 61 to take a one shot lead in the opening round of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
The four-time European Tour winner came home in just 28 shots to add to earlier birdies on the fifth and sixth holes, setting the early pace on nine under par at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Horsey missed the cut in the first two events of the European Tour’s Middle East swing, but he holds a one stroke advantage over former Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher, of Scotland, who posted ten birdies in an eight under par round of 62.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger is two shots further back on six under par after signing for a 65, with U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau amongst a group on five under.
World Number One Dustin Johnson opened with a three under par 67, as did his two playing partners, Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner Tyrrell Hatton and reigning Race to Dubai Champion Lee Westwood.
David Horsey: “It’s a shock actually. I’ve been playing rubbish the last couple weeks. Didn’t feel like I controlled my ball the first two events.
“I had a conversation with a pal back home last night, talking a few things through and suggested something that I work on away from the tournament. Knowing me, I thought, well, can’t get any worse, so I may as well try it and here we are. It was just how my body is moving quite sort of technical really. It’s nice to have a feel you can sort of wake up and pick up straightaway. I didn’t really feel like I missed many shots. I holed a couple of nice, lengthy putts as well and it all adds up to 61.”
Stephen Gallacher: “I actually hit it really close to the pin today which was good, and I managed to hole those sort of ten-foot putts for birdie I had. It was one of those sort of just go on a roll and kept knocking them in.
“I wanted to just draw a line in the sand for 2020. With everything that happened, the pandemic, my dad, losing friends, it was just one of those terrible years. I couldn’t wait for 2021 come really and get back to sort of a bit of normality and get back playing and back enjoying it.
“I worked hard in the winter in the gym and on my net in the house, and came out early and showed a bit of formerly doors. So, 2020, just erase it from my memory and look forward now to 2021.”
Bryson DeChambeau: “I’m definitely very pleased. I was driving it a bit all over the place for the most part out there. Hit some good drives to six and seven. But was definitely struggling with the driver and a little bit of the irons, and I have to clean that up for tomorrow. If I can do that and put the way I did today, I’ll certainly be pleased.
“I know that I’m putting well. I know that I can hit it far out here. I’m disappointed it’s not as far as I would like it but once I got out there and was hitting some wayward shots, you have to try to rein it in and control it better.
“I was able to do that for the most part and miss it in the right places and hopefully I miss it in the right places when I do hit it off-line.”