Eagle sees Grace to the front
Branden Grace (Gallo Images)
George - A spectacular eagle on his final hole saw a relieved Branden Grace take a share of the first round lead at the Coca-Cola Championship on Tuesday.
Grace fired a four-under par 68 in adverse weather conditions on the Montagu course at Fancourt, but afterwards revealed that his score really didn't reflect his level of play.
"I think I played better than what my score showed," he said. "But this is my seventh week in a row which I am playing, so I am mentally getting a bit tired."
Grace's round featured five birdies and three bogeys with the highlight of his round coming on the par-five ninth when he hit his second shot to two feet for eagle to end his round and put him in a tie for the lead with Josh Cunliffe.
"I think I deserved making eagle as, like I said, I played better than I showed," he said.
"I smashed one down there from the tee and had 266 yards to the pin, which is a perfect rescue for myself. I then hit a great shot which never left the pin and rolled to about two, three feet and I made the putt. So it was quite nice and a good way to finish."
Cunliffe also recorded a rare eagle today when he holed out with a seven-iron from 188 metres at the difficult par-four fifth hole. He also had five more birdies in his round but felt let down by his putter after three-putting twice, one of those resulting in a double-bogey six.
Nevertheless, he was happy with his round and maintains that once he gets his putter going, he will be in with a real shot once more.
Andrew Curlewis, Darren Fichardt, Justin Walters, and Tjaart van der Walt all finished their rounds on three-under par to share third place, while Chris Swanepoel sits alone in seventh on two-under par which includes a triple-bogey eight on the par-five 18th hole.
The 2009 champion Christiaan Basson opened his defence with a solid two-over par round to sit in a tie for 18th. He is by no means out of the race though as there is no cut in the 30 man field and will be able to reflect back on his winning performance last year for added inspiration.
Tournament host Gary Player also made his appearance on the 10th tee to welcome all of the participants and watch them hit their tee shots.
First round scores (RSA unless specified):
68 - Josh Cunliffe, Branden Grace
69 - Andrew Curlewis, Justin Walters, Darren Fichardt, Tjaart van der Walt
70 - Chris Swanepoel
71 - Jake Roos, Adilson da Silva (BRA), Oliver Bekker
72 - Doug McGuigan, Ulrich van den Berg, Michiel Bothma
73 - Neil Schietekat, George Coetzee, Bradford Vaughan, Brandon Pieters
74 - Louis de Jager, Shaun Norris, Christiaan Basson
75 - Jean Hugo
76 - Daniel Greene, TC Charamba (ZIM), Prinavin Nelson
77 - Neil Cheetham (ENG)
78 - Warren Abery, Titch Moore
79 - Theunis Spangenberg, Grant Muller
80 - Alex Haindl