Neil Schietekat made three birdies in a row on Thursday to card a five-under-par 67 for the first-round lead of the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Arabella Country Estate.
He followed the only bogey of his round with those birdies and held a one-stroke edge over Kenya’s Stefan Engell Andersen, South Africa’s Vaughn Groenewald and Theunis Spangenberg. Jacques Kruyswijk and Charl Coetzee were in a share of fifth at three-under.
‘I made my first bogey on six,’ said Schietekat who started his round on the 10th. ‘It was just a mental error. I just wasn’t thinking and it kind of woke me up. Seven is not an easy par-three, but I hit a five-iron to about 10 feet. That settled me down and I hit some good shots coming in.
‘I’m hitting my irons amazingly well. I’m not so hot with the driver, though. I hit driver three times out there today. I’m hitting a lot of three-woods off the tee box, just trying to get the ball into play, because there’s a lot of bush out there.’
He eased into his round with two birdies on his first nine, on the 13th and 18th, taking advantage of the near-perfect conditions in the morning. ‘There wasn’t a breath of wind for the first nine holes,” he said. “It was getting up during the last four or five holes I played, and I think it’s going to be quite testing later.’
As it turned out, all four players who finished on four-under played in the afternoon, and their rounds had weather conditions that were the mirror image of those faced by Schietekat in the morning.
‘I didn’t think the wind was up at all,’ said Engell Andersen. ‘At the beginning, there were times when it seemed to be one-and-a-half, two clubs, but it died down and it was pleasant all day.’
For Schietekat, making an error wasn’t as punitive as it was for some of the other players. Ockie Strydom had a triple-bogey on his card, while Wallie Coetsee and Jaco Ahlers each had a double as they finished at one-under for the first round.
‘Because I haven’t been comfortable with my driver for the last four or five weeks,’ said Schietekat, ‘I’ve got a game plan. Even if I have to hit two-iron off the tee, and that means I have to come in with another two-iron, because I’m hitting my irons well, I’m comfortable with that.’