Kempton Park - Hennie du Plessis fired in an impressive seven-under-par 65 opening round on Wednesday to take a one-shot lead at the Sun Carnival City Challenge being played at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.
Du Plessis made two consecutive birdies on his first two holes to make his intentions clear.
He followed those up with a par on three, then two more birdies and four pars on his front nine.
On the back nine, he made four more birdies but a bogey on 13 robbed him of a flawless round.
“It was awesome,” Du Plessis said after his round, “I mean I hit the ball so well, I putted awesome. I definitely drove the ball the best I have been, all year.
“Everything is working well right now, I have got a new caddie on the bag and he’s giving me some of the best advice, so I am feeling very comfortable.” Apart from the new caddie, and like Jbe’ Kruger, Du Plessis knows this course well. “I have played this course so many times and I feel very comfortable around it,” he said.
Behind Du Plessis, Kruger took full advantage of his knowledge of Serengeti and shot six-under-par 66 to place himself second.
Kruger announced his intentions early on, as he fired in three birdies and an eagle on his front nine, with that bogey on six threatening to unsettle him.
He then swiftly recovered at the turn as three more birdies on 11, 17 and 18 found their way into his card. But he dropped yet another shot on 13 and had to settle for 66 in this tightly contested round.
“This is probably the best score I could have shot today,” Kruger remarked after his round, “but, you are always happy to start off this way, especially on your home course.
“That definitely helps because I know where to hit the ball and where not to. But, like I said, to win, you still need to make those putts.”
James Kamte, Anthony Michael and Titch Moore share third spot on five-under-par 67. “I’m very excited,” Kamte, who is a member of the Gary Player Class of 2017-18, said, “because of all the preparation, through injury and stuff, and to come back and still manage to make a few birdies and to get myself back on the scoreboard is something I have been wanting for so long. Five-under today, around this golf course, is very exciting.”
Jonathan Agren and Jacques Kruyswijk are part of a seven-man tie for sixth, as they all signed for four-under 68, while defending champions Ruan de Smidt, Hennie Otto, JC Ritchie and Michael Palmer share 13th on three-under 69.
65 - Hennie du Plessis
66 - Jbe' Kruger
67 - Anthony Michael, James Kamte, Titch Moore
68 - Jonathan Agren, Theunis Spangenberg, Jacques Kruyswijk, Vaughn Groenewald, Jean Hugo, JJ Senekal, Neil Schietekat
69 - Ruan de Smidt, Hennie Otto, JC Ritchie, Michael Palmer
70 - Chris Swanepoel, Lindani Ndwandwe, Jason Froneman, Mark Murless, Louis de Jager, Jacquin Hess, Merrick Bremner
71 - Jared Harvey
72 - Andrew van der Knaap, Zack Byrd, Keith Horne, Ulrich van den Berg, Callum Mowat, Wynand Dingle, Scott Campbell, Ockie Strydom, Peter Karmis, Heinrich Bruiners, Doug McGuigan, Jaco Mouton, Desne Van Den Bergh, Omar Sandys
73 - Jason Diab, N.J. Arnoldi, Aubrey Beckley, Tyrone Ferreira, Jake Roos, Lyle Rowe, Luke Jerling, Rourke van der Spuy, Matias Calderon, Daniel van Tonder, PH McIntyre, Justin Harding, Mark Williams, Ryan Tipping, Keenan Davidse, Teaghan Gauche
74 - Pieter Kruger, Stefan Engell Andersen, Ryan Cairns, Jeff Inglis, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Stuart Smith, Antonio Rosado, Steven Ferreira, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Allister de Kock
75 - Cody Martin, Oliver Bekker, Coert Groenewald, Riekus Nortje, Breyten Meyer, Combrinck Smit, Damon Stephenson, Gert Myburgh, Matthew Spacey, Stephen Ferreira, Rhys West, Charl Coetzee, Christiaan Basson, Colin Nel, Jason Smith, Dwayne Basson
76 - Andre Nel, Makhetha Mazibuko, Andrew Curlewis, Jaco Ahlers, Jean-Paul Strydom, Madalitso Muthiya, MJ Viljoen, Andre Cruse, Gerard du Plooy, Dayne Moore, Wallie Coetsee
77 - Kyle Pilgrim, Gerrit Foster, Bradford Vaughan, Jason Viljoen, Allan Versfeld, Michael Hollick, Danie Van Niekerk, Toto Thimba
78 - Alex Haindl, Antonio Costa, Sipho Bujela, Matthew Carvell
79 - Sean Bradley, Chris Cannon, Marc Cayeux, Dongkwan Kim, Jaco Prinsloo
80 - Kenneth Dube, Bryandrew Roelofsz, Jake Redman, Tyrone Ryan, Morne Buys
81 - Desvonde Botes
82 - Daniel Hammond
83 - Quintin Wilsnach, Eugen Marugi
84 - Irvin Mazibuko
85 - Armandt Scholtz
88 - CJ du Plessis