Sunshine Tour

Ritchie grabs share of Fancourt lead

2018-02-15 17:39
JC Ritchie (Gallo Images)

George - JC Ritchie felt it all come together in the opening round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am on Thursday as he carded a fine seven-under-par 66 on The Links at Fancourt.

The tournament is played on all three courses at Fancourt - The Links, Montagu and Outeniqua - with the cut after the third round. The final round will be played on Montagu.

Ritchie made eight birdies and one bogey to share the lead with Vaughn Groenewald, Toby Tree of England and Garth Mulroy.

Tree and Mulroy carded their rounds on the par-72 Outeniqua, while Ritchie and Groenewald were at The Links.

It was Ritchie's iron-play which was particularly pleasing for the winner of last year's Zimbabwe Open.

"My iron-play was really rewarding today. I hit some stunning iron shots," he said. "I had a recurring number today. I had 151 into about six holes, and I made most of my birdies with a nine-iron. To the last hole, I had 167 which is a perfect club up and I made birdie as well."

It was a relief for Ritchie to get the opening round behind him, as he is quite intimidated by The Links.

"It's always good to shoot a good round around The Links," he said. "It doesn't come around often. You have to hit the ball well and make good putts. The greens are tricky, and off the tees... that's probably the most intimidating part of the course. Just getting it off the tee. It's so well designed visually. To get it in all the fairways is a tough challenge."

Groenewald is less intimidated by The Links.

"I'm chuffed," he said. "Playing The Links in these conditions, when the wind's not blowing... if you do hit the ball well, you can shoot good scores. I missed just one fairway and just one green. I missed the eighth when I didn't commit and pulled it a bit left. I had a difficult chip down the hill, and I was thinking about the water before I even hit it."

It was his putting that gave him the edge after overnight rain had slowed the greens up.

"The greens weren't as quick as usual this morning with the rain we had, so that's making it easier," he said. "You can have a go at a couple of putts. My putting is always my strong point - that's why they call me 'The Boom!' The greens were nice and slow so I could bomb them a bit."

Over on the Outeniqua layout, Tree made four birdies on the front nine; two on the first two holes and two more on the eighth and ninth holes, before turning to make three more on his way to an unblemished 65.

"I've started on the Outeniqua in the past tournaments I have played here," said Tree. "It's the same for me. I suppose it's the easier course to score on but I find it quite tricky. So, I'm very happy with seven-under. I putted well all day."

Mulroy's round was as birdie-laden as Ritchie's was. He started like a house on fire, making five birdies on the front nine without a single bogey.

He looked like he wouldn't relent on the homeward stretch as he birdied the 10th before dropping a shot on the 11th hole. After four straight pars, Mulroy made further gains by making back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 before making par to sign for 65.

"I've never really been good in the rain," admitted Mulroy. "I putted nicely. I tried a new Kramski putter this week and I did a little bit of work with it yesterday and it paid off today. The putter definitely can keep the momentum going and make up for some bad shots, so I am happy with my work today."

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