Bbabane - A couple of wayward drives in the opening holes weren’t enough to deter rookie James Allan from playing himself into a two-way share of the lead after the first round of this season’s Royal Swazi Open on Wednesday.
With this event played in the Modified Stableford format where the objective is to have the highest score, and unlike traditional scoring methods, where the aim is to have the lowest score, points are awarded based on the number of strokes taken at each hole and thereby making it possible for players to play attacking golf and the Englishman took advantage of it.
“I played really nicely even though I had a bit of a slow start,” said Allan who earned his playing privileges at Qualifying School earlier in the year.
“This format is really interesting for us players because it really gives you the opportunity to be aggressive. It encourages aggressive play and makes you look at some holes differently, like the par-fives; you want to try and take advantage of those. If you make an eagle, that can really push you up, so it makes the format really interesting.”
Making the trip to the Kingdom of eSwatini for the first time as a full member of the Tour after earning his spot at this event via the gruelling pre-qualifier, and despite a stuttering start to his round, Allan had a lot to smile about at the end of his first round of golf as a pro at the Royal Swazi Golf and Spa.
“My approach play was really good today,” he said, “I created a lot of chances and managed to hole a few as well, so I am happy for that. I feel like I’ve got a great strategy for this course and it suits my eye quite well so I just hope I can do the same thing tomorrow.”
Allan shares the top spot with Martin Rohwer who also produce a fine round of golf which consisted of eight birdies, an eagle and three bogeys. He, too, feels he didn’t play the first few holes as well as he would have liked, but thanks to this format of play which encourages players to really attack, he bounced back solidly to grab a share of the lead.
“It was a little bit up and down ball-striking-wise,” he said of his opening round, “but I made a lot of putts, especially from about 10-15 feet, I was really solid. So, I am happy with my start and hopefully there’s more of that to come.”
He only made a single bogey on the back nine compared to the two he picked up on the front, and the eagle he made on the par-five 17th had a lot of say as Rohwer shot to the top.
“I made two bogeys on the front nine, and obviously in this format, a bogey is a minus one point whereas a birdie is plus two, so it actually doesn’t hurt you that much. On the back nine I kind of thought ‘Well, let’s get aggressive and if I do get a bogey here or there, it can’t actually hurt my score.’ So, I played a bit more freely on the back nine, which definitely helped my score.”
MJ Viljoen is one point off the pace and in third position while Daniel Greene, Stephen Ferreira and David McIntyre share fourth, with 15 points.