George Coetzee made a speedy start at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Thursday, where he carded 69 for an early share of third place.
The three-time European Tour winner booked his spot at Gary Player Country Club with a fifth-place finish at the Turkish Airlines Open last week and carried the good form across to Sun City. The Nedbank Golf Challenge, traditionally a showcase tournament, has been incorporated into the Race to Dubai as a 72-man event with a $7-million prize fund.
Coetzee made the most of his first round, but also found trouble with a double bogey at the eighth hole. The 30-year-old’s game was on point in the Pilanesberg sun and he recovered the shots to make the clubhouse on three under par.
He pencilled in eagles at the second and 14th to lead for most of the day, but a bogey at the 18th forced him back into a share of third.
Chile’s Felipe Aguilar set the pace with a four-under-par 68 that included just one bogey. The Chilean is a regular visitor to South Africa and finished 13th at the Joburg Open earlier this year. His experience of kikuyu came in handy at Gary Player Country Club and he took the reins on day one.
Jaco van Zyl also shared third place after shooting 69, his card reflecting two bogeys and five birdies. The Olympian competed in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last year and tied for 13th place, despite carding 78 in the final round. He’s a dark horse to make the top five this week.
Thomas Aiken, fresh off a debut year on the PGA Tour, returned to South Africa with a round of 70 at Gary Player Country Club for an early share of ninth place.
T3/69/-3 George Coetzee, Jaco van Zyl
T9/70/-2 Thomas Aiken
T60/76/+4 Brandon Stone
Still on course – Branden Grace (-1), Retief Goosen (par), Louis Oosthuizen (par), Charl Schwartzel (+1), Richard Sterne (+2)