Schwartzel gets 2021 campaign going with a 67

Charl Schwartzel carded an opening round of five-under-par 67 on Thursday to sit three strokes off the early lead of the PGA Tour’s American Express Desert Classic in Palm Springs, California.

The 2011 Masters champion made seven birdies and two bogeys on the Stadium Course at PGA West to trail first round leader Brandon Hagy, who carded an eight-under-par 64 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

This famed Palm Springs-area tournament long hosted by Bob Hope has undergone significant changes this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, not least of which is the ditching of the pro-am format, the reduction of play to two courses and a 36-hole cut instead of the previous 54-hole cut.

Branden Grace was scheduled to be teeing it up in the tournament too, but the death of his father Peter to COVID-19 saw him withdraw as he takes time to be with his family in the face of the sad loss.

Erik van Rooyen carded a two-under-par 70 to open, and former South African Rory Sabbatini signed for a four-under 68.

Schwartzel started his round with a par on the first, and he bogeyed the second, but then a run of three successive birdies from the third got him into red figures. He bogeyed the 12th, but he got hot again closing out with four successive birdies to the 18th.

Hagy didn’t find out he was in the field until three days before it started, and he racked up 10 birdies, including three streaks of three in a row. He finished the day one shot ahead of South Korea’s Byeong Hun An.

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