Erik van Rooyen tamed Carnoustie to set the clubhouse lead at -4 after a calculated opening round at The Open, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Joburg Open runner-up Van Rooyen took full advantage of the benign weather conditions at Carnoustie on Thursday morning to put the South African flag on top in Scotland.
The 28-year-old, playing in his first season on the European Tour and in his first Major, started with two birdies to seize the initiative as the wind stayed away. Also staying away were errant swings as the South African found fairways and greens in regulation on a consistent basis.
Van Rooyen two-putted his way to a birdie at the par-five 6th and turned in -3 to grab the majority of the TV attention. That attention remained as he moved to -4 with a gain at the 11th and made up for a disappointing three-putt par on the 14th with his fifth birdie of the day at the next.
A bogey at the last after finding the fairway off the tee brought the field back into the early running after settling for a 67.
With two wins last year – in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship (Sunshine Tour) and the Hainan Open (Challenge Tour) – Van Rooyen’s stock continues to rise after this impressive start and his solo possession of the 54-hole lead at the Irish Open just two weeks ago.
‘I didn’t pull it off on the final day. I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous and that’s completely normal, and I’ll learn how to deal with that.
‘I’ll take that experience into tournaments like this. The course was playing as easy as it was going to play this whole week this morning – no wind at all.
‘I think it’s going to pick up from now onwards. So you had to go out and take advantage of it.’
A bogey-bogey finish cost former Masters champion Danny Willett a share of the clubhouse lead. The Englishman finished two under for his opening efforts.
Last week’s winner, Brandon Stone, is currently the next best on course with a bogey-free -3 round through 11 holes.
It wasn’t all good news for the South Africans though, with Shaun Norris, who, like Van Rooyen, qualified after a strong showing at the Joburg Open, dropped four shots in his final fives holes to finish +3.
Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images