South Africa’s golfers were hoping that the wonderful victory by the Springboks over England in the World Cup rugby final would inspire them and also give them what they refer to as a ‘winning feeling’, writes GRANT WINTER.
But it didn’t exactly turn out that way in round one of the $7-million Turkish Airlines Open over the Royal Maxx Montgomerie course on Thursday.
Only one member of Team SA – Justin Harding – broke 70 in this the third last European Tour Rolex Series event and that was thanks to a birdie four at the last as he signed for 69.
Ironically, an Englishman, Tom Lewis, tops the leaderboard on seven-under-par 65 alongside Austria’s Matthias Schwab. So, unlike the rugby, it’s no stretch of the imagination to put down day one of the golf as England 1, South Africa 0.
‘But with three rounds to go it’s certainly not over yet,’ insisted Harding, winner of the Qatar Masters earlier this year for his maiden European Tour victory.
‘I feel I hit the ball well for the most part today, but the putts were diving close to the hole and just not dropping. I made one big mistake, too, at the par-5 fourth hole where I hit my second into the water and took six. It wasn’t a tough shot; I just didn’t execute.’
Erik van Rooyen also admitted to one glitch in an otherwise decent round.
‘At the 13th (also a par-5) we waited a long time to hit our second shots and I guess a lost a bit of focus as I found the trees. I had to take an unplayable lie, chipped out sideways and ended up with a double-bogey seven. Other than that I wasn’t too unhappy,’ added the man who has also broken through on tour this year in the Scandinavian Invitation.
Van Rooyen is on two-under 70, as is Richard Sterne, who will be kicking himself after a silly drop at 17 and a fluffed chip at 18, which turned a probable birdie into a par.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout birdied the last for 71, a score matched by George Coetzee, while Zander Lombard made 73 and Justin Walters an unhappy 75.
Lewis picked up shots at each of the last four holes in a strong inward loop of six-under 31, while Schwab eagled the fourth where Harding had made bogey.
Schwab is new on tour but Chubby Chandler, CEO of management company ISM and one of golf’s movers and shakers, rates the 24-year-old and says he’s a future star. And Chandler knows a thing or two.