Sun City - Riekus Nortje produced the lowest score of the day when he shot an opening four-under-par 68 round of the Sun City Challenge held at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.
Starting from the 10th tee, Nortje opened with a birdie before making three straight pars. Two more birdies made it onto his card on 13 and 14, his fourth and fifth holes, but Nortje followed those up with a bogey on the 15th.
He made par on the next hole and followed that up with two more birdies to turn in 32 after an eventful front nine.
"The putter rolled really well," admitted Nortje. "I had a couple of putts from the fringe but luckily they weren't too far from the hole. I am happy it has come together today, overall, my putting has been quite solid lately."
While his putter did the business on the back nine, his front, the homeward stretch proved a little tricky for Nortje.
He made two birdies there but those were cancelled out by the two bogeys he made.
Keeping the chase alive early on and just a single stroke behind Nortje is the duo of the on-form Justin Harding and rookie Estiaan Conradie who both signed for 69s. He, too, teed off from the 10th and apart from the lone birdie he made on his seventh hole, the 15th, that stretch was awfully quiet for Harding.
Coming home, the recently crowned Lombard Insurance Classic champion kept his cool despite an uneventful front nine, making an eagle on his 11th hole, the second hole of the course. That eagle was followed by a bogey he feels could have been avoided. On the 15th, Harding picked up another birdie to take up the second spot behind Nortje.
"It was a long day," he said with a heavy sigh after his round. "It was eventful. There's a lot going on here, it's a tough golf course. It's a grind and there's no real time to let up. I did that once today with that silly bogey but otherwise it was a decent enough round, I played solidly."
Conradie’s round was just as eventful as Harding's, if not more.
He made two eagles, two birdies, a bogey and a double drop on Tuesday. Sharing fourth on two-under 70 is Louis de Jager and Christiaan Basson while Neil Schietekat, JC Ritchie and Wallie Coetsee are all tied for sixth after they all shot 71s.
The round was called with two groups still put due to bad light and those players will resume the round before the start of the second round on Wednesday.