Van Zyl on song at Africa Open
East London - A red-hot Jaco van Zyl stamped his authority on the Africa Open with an impressive six-under-par 66 on a day that saw the bulk of the field struggle in the extremely windy conditions at East London Golf Club.
Van Zyl set the target after completing the round following a suspension due to severe wind conditions, but could see his lead disappear when Adilson da Silva returns to complete his first round on Friday.
Playing in the afternoon field, the experienced Brazilian launched a ferocious attack on the par-72 layout and reeled off five birdies in his first six holes. With pars at the next two holes, he poses a serious threat at five under with 10 holes to play.VIDEO: Africa Open, Day 1 highlights
England’s John Parry finished in third on four under, one shot clear of South Africa’s Oliver Bekker, who carded a 69 and shares fourth place with Dane Morten Orum Madsen, three under through 11 and South African Andrew Curlewis, who has 10 holes to play.
Meanwhile last year’s runner up Tjaart van der Walt was knocked off his feet by the fierce south-westerly while lining up a putt at the par-four fifth but came back strong after the suspension to finish at two under alongside Frenchmen Gregory Bourdy,
Sweden’s Bjorn Akesson, England’s Andy Sullivan, Daniel Green from KwaZulu-Natal and four players who still have to complete their rounds.
But the show belonged to Van Zyl.
The Pretoria professional shared the lead on four under with Parry when winds gusting up to 70km per hour forced officials to suspend play at 11h28.
The 10-time Sunshine Tour winner sounded a warming to the rest of the field when he returned to the course and completed his last four holes in two under to take pole position.
Van Zyl got his round going with birdies at the new par-four 11th and 14th and chipped in from 10 meters for a spectacular eagle at the par-five 15th to turn in 31. After a birdie at the first, he had to watch in frustration as the wind got hold of a well-aimed six-iron at the par-three second and carried the ball well left of the green.
But 32-year-old erased the ensuing bogey with successive birdies at the fifth and sixth and parred his way home for his 66.
“You know, all I could think about over those last three holes was how much I wanted to get off the golf course,” Van Zyl said.
“The wind was really, really brutal out there, especially over the front nine. It was a struggle to stand and keep your balance over your putts, so the suspension was a good call.”
Still chasing his maiden European Tour title, Van Zyl battled a wobbly swing to a top 10 finish at the Joburg Open on Sunday, but having found his rhythm again, has high hopes this week in a tournament where he finished fourth last year.
“I’m hitting it a lot better this week and it’s nice that I’ve carried my short game to Buffalo City,” he said. “I definitely feel that if I play a couple of good rounds, I can make a go of it on Sunday.”
Play was called off at 19:00 and the first round will be completed Friday morning, followed immediately by the second round.
Tickets to this year’s Africa Open are available at the gate. Entry is free for children under 18 on Thursday and Friday and R5 for Saturday and Sunday. Adults also enter for free on Thursday and Friday and tickets cost R25 per day on the weekend. Leading clubhouse scores after wind-interrupted first round of Africa Open at par-72, 6066-metre East London Golf Club Thursday (RSA unless noted):
66 - Jaco van Zyl
68 - John Parry (ENG)
69 - Oliver Bekker
70 - Bjorn Akesson (SWE), Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Daniel Greene, Andy Sullivan (ENG), Tjaart van der Walt
71 - Seve Benson (ENG), Andrew Georgiou, Tyrone Mordt, Ulrich van den Berg
72 - Christiaan Basson, Matteo Delpodio (ITA), Louis de Jager, Lasse Jensen (DEN), Alexandre Kaleka (FRA), Garth Mulroy
73 - Warren Abery, Jorge Campillo (ESP), Charl Coetzee, Josh Cunliffe, Bryce Easton, Peter Erofejeff (FIN), Lorenzo Gagli (ITA), Ross McGowan (ENG), Gregory Havret (FRA), Alexander Levy (FRA), Mikael Lundberg (SWE), Chris Paisley, Bradford Vaughan
74 - Thomas Aiken, Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE), Desvonde Botes, James Busby (ENG), Tyrone Ferreira, Daniel Gaunt (AUS), Estanislao Goya (ARG), Joost Luiten (NED), Garth Maybin (NIR), Lyle Rowe, Teboho Sefatsa, Lee Slattery, Dawie van der Walt, Peter Whiteford (SCO), Aron Zemmer (ITA)