By Michael Todt
MPUMALANGA, South Africa (Reuters) - Frenchman Gregory Bourdy fired a bogey-free round of 66 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Golf Club on Thursday to seize a one-stroke lead in the Race to Dubai's second event of the season.
Bourdy claimed three birdies on each nine to take a slender advantage over a group of six at five-under.
"I'm very happy, because it's not an easy course. I played a very consistent game and had a lot of birdie opportunities. I made six, so it's very good," Bourdy told a news conference.
"I didn't miss a lot of shots, just a few, but they were very close to the fairways and the greens. I'm pretty happy to play like this on such a competitive course."
Bourdy, 30, missed out on the Race to Dubai final for the first time in five years a few weeks ago. But two top-10 finishes in the latter part of the season were indicative of a return to form and the Frenchman is pleased with the direction his game is going in.
"I've felt comfortable for a few weeks. My last weeks after summer in Europe were good, and I was waiting for something more. I have an opportunity this week to produce a better performance, so I'll do my best," he said.
One of the players in the group at five-under is Briton Steve Webster, who was denied victory at last week's Nelson Mandela Championship on the second playoff hole.
"I got off to a good start. I was three-under after six, but I should have been six-under," he told Reuters. "I missed three from eight feet in the first three holes, which was a bit frustrating. But then I got the rhythm with the putter.
"I hit it nicely off the tee, some lovely irons, and tapped a few putts in, which makes all the difference."
Another player trailing by a stroke is local resident Charl Schwartzel, who continued the scintillating form he showed in his 11-stroke victory at the Thailand Golf Championship last week.
"It's a nice start. Whenever you can start off with a five-under it's good. Like I always say you can't win on the first day, but you can sure lose it," Schwartzel told Reuters.
"I've always liked the course. It always seems to suit my eye, and it's got some sort of relaxing feel about it, so the combination goes well together."
Schwartzel's 67 was matched by compatriot Darren Fichardt, Louis de Jager and Oliver Bekker, while Briton Richard Bland rounded up the group of six with his morning's round.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)