Johannesburg - Merrick Bremner carded two bogeys, but they didn’t stop him from tearing around Royal Swazi Sun Country Club in nine-under-par 63 to lead round one of the Lombard Insurance Classic.
“I gave myself a lot of chances and converted them today,” he explained. “It’s nice to get a good one under the belt early on, and hopefully we can go from strength to strength and keep making good scores.”
The 27-year-old made nine birdies and an eagle during the round to pull two strokes clear of early leaders Toto Thimba and Neil Schietekat.
“You just have to try to stay in the moment, stay positive and just keep hitting good shots,” said Bremner. “I wasn’t really worried about my score, I was focused on hitting goods shots and converting chances.”
The Pretoria local is a notoriously long hitter of the ball, but it was his flat stick that did the talking on Thursday. He made just 22 putts during the round, which averages out to 1,2 putts per hole. Or in other words, he was sinking nearly every putt he looked at.
“I had a Lasik eye operation last week Wednesday and the vision has improved a lot. I must be seeing the lines better, because I only had 22 putts today!” he laughed.
Add to that some superb iron play and accuracy off the tee, and it becomes clear that Bremner was enjoying himself as he raced around the 6140-metre track.
It must be doing something right,” he joked. “I put myself in position to score a lot of times today and took advantage of that. And I had a lot of fun while I was doing it.”
The Els Club professional has seen it all at the Lombard Insurance Classic, having won in 2008 and taken fifth place two years ago. He made a new memory on Thursday when he eagled the par-four second hole, catapulting into a share of the lead.
“On the 12th I hit a bunt fade driver down the fairway and it stopped about 45 metres short of the green. The pitch shot came out on the fringe and took a nice bounce, rolled forward and disappeared,” he smiled.
A final two birdies over the last three holes secured his two-stroke lead.
Morning starter Toto Thimba held the clubhouse lead on seven-under-par for much of the day, but had shifted to tied second by the close of play. He made seven birdies and no bogeys for a solid start to the R900 000 tournament.
Also tied for second was Neil Schietekat, who came home at speed, making an eagle at the 17th and a birdie at the 18th to vault up the leaderboard.
Warren Abery looked to be in trouble after he carded bogeys at the second and third, but found his rhythm on the back nine and finished his second loop in 31 strokes, reaching the clubhouse in sole fourth on six-under-par.
SCORES (RSA unless otherwise specified):
63 - Merrick Bremner
65 - Toto Thimba (Jnr), Neil Schietekat
66 - Warren Abery
67 - Ruan de Smidt, Andrew Curlewis, Desne van den Bergh, Brandon Pieters, Charl Coetzee
68 - Thabo Maseko, Graham van der Merwe, Grant Muller, Mark Murless, Alex Haindl, PH McIntyre
69 - Jacques Kruyswijk, Ryan Cairns (ZIM), Allan Versfeld, Ulrich van den Berg, Morne Buys, Danie van Tonder, James Kingston,Dean Burmester, Jean Hugo, Jacques Blaauw
70 - Callie Swart, Drikus Bruyns, Chris Erasmus, Riekus Nortje, JG Claassen, Jake Redman, Peter Karmis, Steve Surry (ENG),Thabang Simon, Divan van den Heever, Matthew Carvell
71 - Divan Gerber, Teboho Sefatsa, Anthony Michael, Des Terblanche, Vaughn Groenewald, Andre Cruse, Lindani Ndwandwe,Tyrone Ferreira, Adilson Da Silva (BRA), Oliver Bekker, Desvonde Botes
72 - Juan Langeveld, Johan du Buisson, Bradford Vaughan, Derik Ferreira, Christiaan Basson, Justin Harding
73 - Bennie van der Merwe, Wynand Dingle, Steven Ferreira, Keenan Davidse, Neil Cheetham (ENG), Hendrik Buhrmann, Lyle Rowe,Michael Hollick, Mark Williams, Titch Moore
74 - Daniel Hammond, Martin du Toit, Kevin Stone, Ockie Strydom, Tyrone Mordt, Sipho Bujela, Jared Harvey,Bryce Easton, Jake Roos
75 - Arthur Horne (SWZ), JJ Senekal
76 - Ryan Tipping, Micky Hough (ZIM), Wallie Coetsee, Theunis Spangenberg, James Kamte, Michiel Bothma
79 - Shaun Norris
80 - Chris Swanepoel