Nedbank Golf Challenge
Charl shares Sun City lead
Charl Schwartzel (Gallo Images)
Sun City - After he played the ninth as badly as he possibly could have on Thursday, Charl Schwartzel hit back with five birdies to card a four-under-par 68 to take a share of the first round lead in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Defending champion Lee Westwood made an 18-footer for birdie on the 18th and moved to four-under with the last putt of the day to share the top of the leaderboard with the South African.
“I got angry and then I got fearless and I just started firing at the flags," said Schwartzel of his homeward five-under-par 31.
His aggression paid off as he and Westwood took a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, with six players in a share of fourth place at two-under-par.
Schwartzel’s tee shot on nine came in the midst of a rain shower, and his attempt to compensate for the change in conditions led to his downfall on that hole.
“I thought I had to hit it a little harder to get a decent second shot into the green,” he said, “and I just pushed it right.
“To be fair, I very nearly got the lay-up out of the rough with my seven-iron spot on, but it just hit a little branch and fell back into the rough,” he added.
He then deposited his third - an attempted five-iron for the middle of the green - into the water. A pitch from the drop zone and two putts saw him card a double-bogey seven on a hole which conceded four birdies and an eagle to his opponents.
Westwood was the man who made the eagle on nine, as he turned his poor start - a bogey on one - into two-under 34 through the turn.
He then made three birdies on his homeward nine, but the effect of those was somewhat spoiled by a bogey-four on the 12th.
Schwartzel, on the other hand, hit back immediately after his poor show on the ninth with a birdie on 10, and that set him back on the right track.
“The way I played on the back nine is more reflective of the way I have been playing lately,” he said. “I’ve been hitting the ball really well, and once I get the putts rolling, I’m getting into good positions in tournaments.”
He made three birdies in a row from 12, and another on 16 - he was the only player to make one on that hole on the day as he sank a 20-footer there.
Karlsson started the day with three consecutive birdies from the second, but a pair of bogeys on the inward nine rather arrested his progress, and world No 1 Luke Donald was one of the six on two-under as he made a double-bogey six on the 17th after he hit his first tee shot into the water.
68 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Lee Westwood (ENG)
69 - Robert Karlsson(SWE)
70 - Simon Dyson (ENG), Luke Donald (ENG), Martin Kaymer (GER), Kim Kyung-Tae (KOR), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Jason Dufner (USA)
72 - Anders Hansen (DEN), Francesco Molinari (ITA)
74 - Darren Clarke (NIR)