Two eagles in his opening round on Thursday in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt saw Jaco van Zyl into a three-way share of the lead with his seven-under-par 65.
He picked up those eagles on the second and the 17th of the Outeniqua course at Fancourt – the 168-man field of professionals play one round on each of Outeniqua, Montagu and The Links at Fancourt, ahead of the cut to the top 65 players and ties after three rounds – and he also made three birdies to see himself, Brandon Stone and Italy’s Francesco Laporta lead by one.
“I’m definitely striking the ball better than last week,” said Van Zyl of his share of 10th in last week’s Tshwane Open. “I’m still putting nicely so it’s nice to see that the short game is back. I hope I can get the ball striking back to where it was in Portugal last year.”
The trio held a narrow edge over six players grouped on six-under-par – The Links is a par-73 and the other two courses are 72s – consisting of Darren Fichardt, Hennie Otto, Jaco Prinsloo, Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia and Peter Karmis, who all played at Outeniqua, and France’s Julien Guerrier who played his first round at The Links.
“I think it’s a slight advantage starting at Outeniqua,” said Van Zyl. “You try and get around there as low as possible. If you start on The Links, for example, you’ve got to try and hang on to whatever you can and if you don’t get off to a nice start there, it forces you to try and make up on Outeniqua.”
Both his co-leaders played at Outeniqua: South African Open champion Stone, like Van Zyl, made eagle on 17 together with five birdies, while Laporta dropped a shot on 18 to slip back into the three-way share.
Van Zyl is a former winner of the Dimension Data Pro-Am, having won in 2013, and he is looking to become just the third player after Nick Price (1997 and 1998) and Darren Fichardt (2004 and 2010) to win the tournament, now in its 21st year, a second time.
He knows what both the tournament and the courses demand of the players. “I’ve been coming here for quite some time and it’s just such a great format,” he said. “Playing with the amateurs makes it much more laid back and relaxed and you get to play three fantastic golf courses, so all-in-all, it’s just a good fun week.”
And he also has a very specific approach to dealing with his next round at The Links. “The plan is to try and give back as little as possible and capitalise whenever the course and the weather lets up a little.
“I always have a look at weather forecasts – I look at five different sites – and some of them are right and some of them are wrong. But I get a pretty good indication and I think it’s crucial for my preparation on the day,” he said.
He’ll be hoping for more weather like the first day offered – and maybe a six-under like Guerrier shot.