Zimbabawe’s Benjamin Follett-Smith made nine birdies and a single drop on his way to a near-perfect 64 to take the first-round lead of the King’s Cup in eSwatini on Thursday.
Starting off the 10th tee and birdieing that hole, he then made three straight pars before going on a run of four consecutive birdies that were followed by a par as he turned in 31 and bogey-free.
‘I went for the green on 10,’ he said of the opening birdie,
‘I hit a good drive and felt positive from there and just went with it. Easy, positive vibes. Then that four (birdies) in a row, that kind of pumped me up to go into my back nine and just kept it going from there.’
He didn’t slow down after the turn, making three birdies and an equal number of pars from his 10th through to his 16th hole. The dropped shot on the eighth, his 17th hole, then spoilt what was looking like a bogey-free opening round for Follett-Smith.
‘A near-perfect round, yeah, I was a bit unfortunate on eight,’ he said. ‘I just had a bad lie in the rough and then kind of missed it a little bit left; couldn’t up-and-down from there.’
With five players – Estiaan Conradie, Jacques P de Villiers, Chris Cannon, Titch Moore and member of the Gary Player Class, Derick Petersen – lurking closely at seven-under-par, Follett-Smith is, naturally, pleased with the position he occupies after day one in eSwatini.
‘You want to be in position, especially the first two rounds,’ he noted. ‘Anyone can win these events. We’ve all played here so many times and this course is very gettable. You can shoot 10, 11-under one day, and then suddenly, you’re two or three back. So, you never know with this golf course. I’m just happy to be contending again.’
Conradie, buoyed by his brother, Ruan’s win at the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge on this very layout the last time the Tour came to eSwatini, is among those who trail by a single shot.
‘I’ve been playing with him my whole life and seeing him win a couple of weeks ago just reminded me that I can win too because I know I’ve got the game,’ says Conradie. ‘He won and it gave me confidence, it’s weird but having him with me every day and him having won, has been a great confidence-booster for me.’
Jaco Ahlers, Toto Thimba, Alex Haindl and Ruan de Smidt all carded 65s to remain just two shots behind Follett-Smith
First round leaderboard:
64 – Benjamin Follett-Smith
65 – Estiaan Conradie, Jacques P de Villiers, Chris Cannon, Titch Moore, Derick Petersen
66 – Jaco Ahlers, Toto Thimba, Alex Haindl, Ruan de Smidt
67 – Christiaan Basson, Fredrik From, Keenan Davidse, Martin Rohwer, Philip Geerts, Wynand Dingle, Teboho Sefatsa, Dylan Naidoo, Peetie van der Merwe
68 – Clinton Grobler, Doug McGuigan, Trevor Fisher Jnr, JC Ritchie, Ruan Conradie, Andre Nel, Herman Loubser, Callum Mowat, Daniel Greene, Andrew van der Knaap
69 – Darin de Smidt, Theunis Bezuidenhout, James Hart du Preez, Pieter Moolman, Jaco Prinsloo, Jake Redman, Jason Roets, Thriston Lawrence, Wallie Coetsee, Luke Jerling, Ryan Cairns
70 – Dylan Mostert, Riekus Nortje, Neil Schietekat, Rourke van der Spuy, Teaghan Gauche, Adriel Poonan, Tyrone Ferreira, Jean Hugo, Jacques Blaauw, Vaughn Groenewald, Bradford Vaughan, Combrinck Smit
71 – Dayne Moore, James Pennington, Tyrone Ryan, Heinrich Bruiners, Paul Boshoff, Hendrikus Stoop, Louis Albertse, Madalitso Muthiya, Hennie Otto, Chris Swanepoel, Makhetha Mazibuko, Rhys West
72 – Ockie Strydom, Juran Dreyer, MJ Viljoen, Deon Germishuys, CJ du Plessis, Alpheus Kelapile, Jade Buitendag, Merrick Bremner, Stephen Ferreira
73 – David McIntyre, Thanda Mavundla, Allister de Kock, Andre De Decker, Kyle McClatchie, Raymond Mathonsi, Hayden Griffiths
74 – Lyle Rowe
75 – Jonathan Waschefort, Bennie van der Merwe, Franklin Manchest, Brandon-Jude Rennie
76 – Stefan Wears-Taylor
77 – Meshack Zwane
79 – Mandla Dlamini Jnr
80 – Caylum Boon
83 – Willard Mkhwanazi