Johannesburg - South Africa’s Justin Harding was six-under, and one off the lead with one hole left, before play was suspended in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.
Joachim B Hansen carded an opening seven-under 65, with Harding one stroke behind in second place on his own before darkness descended on his final hole of the day.
The 35-year-old Harding began his round with two birdies in a row, before another gain at the par three fourth. Two more birdies in a row followed from the seventh, before his only dropped shot of the day which came at the par four ninth.
He pulled that shot back immediately at the par five 10th, and another birdie at the par four 17th saw Harding rise out of a seven-way tie for second.
With the 18th hole a par five, there’s every chance Harding could reel off another birdie to join Hansen in the lead when he returns to complete his first round on Friday morning.
Another SA player, Brandon Stone carded a solid opening round of four-under 68 for a share of ninth. Stone picked up birdies at the par five third and par three fourth to get his round going, making the turn in two-under. Two more birdies followed at the par five 10th and par four 12th, before his lone bogey of the day at the par four 14th.
A closing birdie four at the 18th ensured Stone’s place inside the top-10.
The pair of Justin Walters and Erik van Rooyen shot opening rounds of three-under 69 in a tie for 15th. It was a good comeback from Walters who made the turn in one-over, before reeling off four birdies on his back nine to ensure he broke 70.
Garrick Higgo and George Coetzee were in a share of 27th after they both fired an opening two-under 70.
Dean Burmester completed the SA contingent under par for the day with his one-under 71, as he settled on 46th position.
SA Open champion Daniel van Tonder carded a one-over 73 for 71st place, while Richard Sterne and Charl Schwartzel were a further stroke adrift in 88th after a pair of opening two-over 74s.
Thrison Lawrence was down in 113th with his four-over effort, and like Harding still had one hole left to complete in round one.
Darren Fichardt was the last of the 12 South Africans in the field, with a forgettable round of eight-over 80 for 130th place.