Jaco van Zyl got off to a respectable start on Thursday when golf made its return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years. The South African shot level-par 71 at the links-style course in Rio de Janeiro to share 27th place after the first round.
‘It was fantastic being out there for the first time today. It was a little breezy, and the course is playing really long. I found that I was wearing out my long irons a bit! But, I hit it really nicely,’ he said.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser set the pace with a blistering 63 and was three shots clear of nearest chasers Canada’s Graeme DeLaet and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
‘This is probably one of the best round of golf I’ve ever played,’ said Fraser. ‘My kids will be waking up in the morning in a state of shock to see their old man is leading in the Olympics.’
The top end of the leaderboard was a mix of nationalities. Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, France’s Gregory Bourdy, Germany’s Alex Cejka, Britain’s Justin Rose, and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello all shared fourth after carding 67s in the first round.
Van Zyl wanted to come out firing, but stumbled early into the round and was left to patch things up.
‘I didn’t have a great start, being two-over after the first four holes, I got it back nicely in the middle of the round and had three golden opportunities coming in – on 16, 17 and 18.
‘Unfortunately I didn’t capitalise. But the golf course is great, the atmosphere is phenomenal and it’s still an absolute pleasure to be here and to be part of it,’ he said.
There is no cut at the 72-hole tournament, where 60 players are bidding for Olympic medals. Van Zyl has built a decent foundation to work from.
‘Level par is not a bad score. I would have liked to have got off to a slightly quicker start though. I definitely had a three or four-under score in me today so we’ve got three more rounds to go and hopefully we can get things going a little bit,’ the South African said.