Cheetham shoots a nine-hole 28
Johannesburg - The floodgates opened for Neil Cheetham on Thursday as he carded seven-under-par 65 in the opening round of the R500 000 Platinum Classic.
The tournament marks the first time a 54-hole event will offer Official World Golf Ranking points and gives local players the chance to improve their international standing.
All the Sunshine Tour's winter events will do the same.
And while Cheetham found himself one stroke off the pace set by first-round leader Divan van den Heever at the nine-hole Mooinooi Golf Club, he will take the momentum of an extraordinary closing nine with him into the second round - he closed with an eye-popping eight-under-par 28.
"I've had 29 a few times, but that 28 is the best nine holes in my 27 years as a professional," he said. "I had a few opportunities on the front nine, and they just didn't go in. I've been playing really well lately, and when I made the bogey on nine - it was one of those unfortunate ones, really - I said to my caddie that I just needed one thing to go right and it would all start happening.
"And then I sank a 15-footer for birdie on the 10th and it all started happening. To be honest, I had a few other chances too - one for eagle on 17 and one for birdie on 15 -so it could have been even better.
"But I really feel as if I deserve that round. And I'm just pleased to have got a good start under my belt at this tournament," he added.
That 15-footer on 10 was the first of four in a row, and he topped that off with an eagle on the 480-metre 14th. Two more birdies - one each on 17 and 18 - rounded off the round, and, but for that drop on nine, he would have been level with the leader.
Van den Heever produced a flawless round with six birdies and an eagle from the rough on the eighth. "I didn't hit enough fairways, but I got lucky with a couple of lies in the rough and made some nice putts -that's what saved me," he said.
That eagle involved a four-iron from the rough he had to cut around some trees and then a "seven- or eight-metre putt".
His was one of very few error-free rounds on a course which had much thicker rough than the players were used to - after a number of years of the tournament being played at the end of winter, summer rains have made the course play very differently.
Jake Roos was one who didn't drop any shots as he carded a six-under-par 66 to share third with Chris Swanepoel.
Warren Abery, who shared sixth last year, and Danie van Tonder who leads the race for the title of Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year, were on five-under 67 in a share of fifth, and they each dropped just one shot.
Scores (RSA unless specified):
64 - Divan van den Heever
65 - Neil Cheetham (ENG)
66 - Chris Swanepoel, Jake Roos
67 - Warren Abery, Danie van Tonder
68 - Ulrich van den Berg, Des Terblanche, Louis de Jager, Tyrone Ferreira, Charl Coetzee, Divan Gerber, Mark Williams, James Kamte, Colin Nel, Dean Burmester, Brett Liddle
69 - Drikus van der Walt, Steven Ferreira, Albert Pistorius, Andrew Georgiou, Thabang Simon, Joshua Cunliffe, Brandon Pieters, Dean O'Riley
70 - Shaun Norris, Graham van der Merwe, Lyle Rowe, Allan Versfeld, Morne Buys, Grant Muller, Michiel Bothma, Bryce Easton, Martin du Toit
71 - Theunis Spangenberg, Omar Sandys, Ryan Tipping, Lindani Ndwandwe, Doug McGuigan, Neil Schietekat, Nic Henning, Andrew Curlewis, Justin Walters, Vaughn Groenewald, Mark Murless
72 - Adilson Da Silva (BRA), Daniel Greene, Desvonde Botes, Jacques Blaauw, Titch Moore, Oliver Bekker, Anthony Michael
73 - Andre Cruse, Alan McLean (SCO), Justin Harding, Matthew Carvell, Hendrik Buhrmann, JG Claassen, Callie Swart
74 - Christiaan Basson
75 - PH McIntyre, Toto Thimba (Jnr), Coenie Bester
76 - Wallie Coetsee, Prinavin Nelson
77 - Michael du Toit, Merrick Bremner, Alan Michell, Jaco Ahlers
78 - Johan du Buisson
80 - Ockie Strydom
86 - Mario Zietsman