Mbabane - An eagle on the seventh helped Combrinck Smit to a seven-under par 65 on Wednesday in the first round of the Royal Swazi Open, which gave him 17 points in the Modified Stableford format of the tournament and a share of the lead.
Smit also made six birdies and two bogeys to match the score of Daniel van Tonder, who started with three bogeys in his first four holes.
Van Tonder went on to make 10 birdies as he came home in 30 for his 65 and 17 points.
"I hit a nice drive," said Smit of his eagle. "It came out the middle nice and low, and it ran quite far. I had 163 to the flag. I hit a full nine-iron and it pitched just short of the hole and it ran to about six or seven feet, and I managed to make the putt."
The Modified Stableford scoring system means five points can be won for an eagle, two for a birdie, and a point is lost for a bogey and three for a double or worse.
Smit's bogeys came on the third and the 10th, but, for the rest, there was plenty for him to be grateful about.
"I played nicely out there today," he said. "I was calm. I hit some nice drives at crucial times. I made a couple of long putts coming in on the back nine. There were a few of them where I just gave myself a chance. I just got it to the hole and they actually happened to drop. That happened on the last hole for birdie.
"My putting was pretty good today. If you go low, you've probably boxed a few long ones. If the putting doesn't go your way, it's going to be quite tough out there."
For Van Tonder, the scoring system helped.
"It gives you a good chance to recover from a bad start," he said. "I still shot seven-under with everything that was going on, so the score and the points actually do reflect each other."
Smit and Van Tonder led Mark Williams and Riekus Nortje by two points. Williams made two eagles in his 66, helping him to 15 points, while Nortje made eight birdies.
They, in turn, were two points clear of Hennie Otto, who hadn’t played the tournament since it was first played with the Modified Stableford scoring in 2003, and rookie Benjamin Follet-Smith of Zimbabwe, who made three eagles in his round - as well as four bogeys.
Those dropped shots, for leader Smit, are the difference between success and failure.
"I would say the main thing is to keep the bogeys off the card - and that’s not even to talk about the double-bogeys, because that's minus three points," he said. "If you hit it well around this course, you give yourself a few chances. There is a lot of holes you can make birdies on.
"The format does challenge you to play a bit more aggressively, and sometimes it works out for you. It worked out for me today. You try and go for a little bit more than usual."
He's got plenty of good players eyeing up the lead when the second round gets underway: Defending champion Peter Karmis made 12 points, and George Coetzee is lurking in a group of five players on 10 points.
Scores (Modified Stableford):
17 - Combrinck Smit, Daniel van Tonder
15 - Mark Williams, Riekus Nortje
13 - Hennie Otto, Benjamin Follett-Smith
12 - Andre De Decker, Peter Karmis, Andre Nel, Hennie du Plessis
10 - Jason Froneman, Justin Harding, George Coetzee, Jaco Ahlers, Duane Keun, Jean Hugo
9 - Christiaan Basson, JJ Senekal, Ulrich van den Berg, Andrew van der Knaap
8 - Oliver Bekker, Andrew Curlewis, James Kingston
7 - Dayne Moore, Nic Henning, Pieter Moolman, Thabang Simon, Dean Burmester
6 - Daniel Greene, Alex Haindl, Jake Roos, Jared Harvey, Colin Nel, Irvin Mazibuko, Titch Moore
5 - Allister de Kock, Jonathan Agren, Lyle Rowe, Neil Schietekat, Martin Rohwer
4 - Rourke van der Spuy, Vaughn Groenewald, Marc Cayeux, Breyten Meyer, Michael Hollick, Ockie Strydom, Bradford Vaughan, CJ du Plessis, Wallie Coetsee
3 - Erhard Lambrechts, PH McIntyre, Toto Thimba, Merrick Bremner, JC Ritchie, Tyrone Ferreira
2 - Doug McGuigan, Omar Sandys, Ruan de Smidt, Stephen Ferreira
0 - Jean-Paul Strydom, Keenan Davidse, Matias Calderon, Andrew Burmester, Damon Stephenson, Heinrich Bruiners
-1 - Chris Swanepoel
-2 - MJ Viljoen, Tyrone Ryan, Jaco Prinsloo
-3 - Arthur Horne, Louis de Jager
-6 - Michael Palmer