Riekus Nortje fired a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 on day one of the Big Easy – The ROAR, to take a one-stroke lead over Germany’s Aaron Leitmannstetter at Waterkloof Golf Club.
Nortje, who placed tied-second and tied-ninth at the Joburg City Masters and South to East Challenge respectively, says putting another flawless 18 together validates his recent form.
‘The last two performances, it was just my first rounds that set me back. Other than that I’ve been playing pretty well and hitting the ball pretty well and it’s good to put another bogey-free round on the card,’ explained Nortje.
A key part of Nortje’s success on day one of The ROAR was his greens in regulation play, and it’s a game plan he takes into the week having not played the course in over 10 years.
‘It was actually quite funny because it’s the first time in about 10 years that I’ve played this golf course. It actually worked out quite well for me. I hit the ball in the right areas, I only missed two greens – both of them just off the green – so it was pretty good all-round,’ said Nortje.
With the silky greens running at 12 on the Stimpmeter at Waterkloof, Leitmannstetter echoed Nortje’s thoughts about placing the ball on the correct sides of the flag.
‘The greens are rolling magnificently. It’s one of those kind of greens where you have to have a lot of imagination. Many times you have a five or six-metre putt and you have to aim it a metre left or right outside the hole. It’s very important to hit the ball nicely into the greens and place it well to have a good putt. It worked out well for me, I was off with a good touch,’ explained Leitmannstetter.
The German, who missed last week’s cut at the Joburg City Masters, says this week’s layout suites his eye and that wants to make the best of the last co-sanctioned event between the Big Easy and MENA Tours.
‘I think the golf course suites me because apart for a couple of holes, it really matters to hit it quite long off the tee. You have – when you carry most of the traps – you have quite a lot of space from off the tee.’
‘I’m actually trying to keep it simple. I wanted to play well because it’s my last event here in your beautiful country. I didn’t take too much advantage out of my game yet, so I’m trying to play well and we’ll see what happens,’ added Leitmannstetter.
Jason Viljoen occupied third place on five-under-par after carding a 67 that contained nine birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. The young South African has been enjoying a rich vein of form.
‘The game has been good the last couple of weeks, so I can’t complain about that. When I come to an event like this I just come here to try and have some fun and have a good game of golf,’ explained Viljoen.
‘The greens can be very slopey and they’ve got some interesting pins out there. I putted really nicely and had some fun, but I’ll go home, relax, come back tomorrow and do it again,’ he added.
Dayne Moore of Zambia, Fredrik From of Sweden, Antonia Costa of Chile and South Africa’s Callie Swart share fourth place on four-under-par.