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Amazing Grace equals European Tour record of 60

Branden Grace of South Africa drops his club while teeing off on the second hole during the first round for the 2012 U.S. Open golf tourname
Branden Grace of South Africa drops his club while teeing off on the second hole during the first round for the 2012 U.S. Open golf tourname

ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - South African Branden Grace equalled the European Tour record when he shot a blistering 12-under-par 60 to lead after the first round of the Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday.

Grace, a triple winner on the tour in 2012, clipped two strokes off Lee Westwood's previous Kingsbarns record of 62 set in 2003 after finishing with five straight birdies.

Frenchman Victor Dubuisson was two shots off the lead on 62 after breaking the course record at St Andrews, one of three layouts being used this week.

Dubuisson had threatened to eclipse Grace when he reached 11 under with three holes left but he bogeyed the seventh hole (his 16th) before finishing with a couple of pars.

Grace became the 14th player to shoot a 60 on the European Tour.

"It could have been a 59," he told reporters. "It's not the easiest course I've ever seen and it is definitely shorter than the others.

"I gave myself a lot of chances and made everything I looked at ... I had a lot of 15 footers and some tap-ins and could even have been one or two better."

Grace, who did not drop a stroke to par, started at the 10th hole and fired three birdies and an eagle on his front nine before storming home in 29 strokes.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, the 2011 British Open winner, is the only man to card two 60s on the circuit, in 1992 and 1999.

Long-hitting Frenchman Dubuisson broke the previous St Andrews best of 63 held by world number one Rory McIlroy, former top-ranked player Luke Donald and fellow Briton Simon Dyson.

Young Dane Thorbjorn Olesen was also on form at the famous Old Course, returning a 63 in the $5 million Dunhill pro-am tournament, while Swede's Alexander Noren and Fredrik Andersson Hed both carded 64s along with Australia's Ashley Hall.

Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer (70) played at the more testing Carnoustie layout and missed a par putt at the 18th of a similar length to the one he holed in Chicago last Sunday to win the trophy for Europe.

"The putter was not really hot but in general you've got to play solid at the toughest course we play here," the 2010 U.S. PGA champion told reporters.

"It's a very nice feeling to come here after Sunday. A lot of people told me it was their best sporting experience on TV," added the German.

Europe came back from 10-4 down to score a stunning 14 1/2 - 13 1/2 win over United States in the biennial team event.

Kaymer's Ryder Cup team mates Paul Lawrie (75) and Peter Hanson (72), both playing at Carnoustie, also found the going tough.

British Open champion Ernie Els returned a 73 at Carnoustie where the best score midway through round one was a 67 by England's Oliver Wilson.

Grace plays at St Andrews on Friday as the tournament's unusual format unfolds. Players play one round on three different course before the top 60 play a final round at St Andrews on Sunday.

A pro-am team event runs simultaneously which this year features the likes of South Africa's Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, recently retired England cricket captain Andrew Strauss and Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps.

(Writing by Tom Pilcher; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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