Walters, de Vries five clear

2011-01-19 19:36

Johannesburg - South African golfer Justin Walters has made light work of the receptive east course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Wednesday to share the lead after round one of the Open Championship International Final Qualifying Africa.

After making eight pars and an eagle on the front nine, Walters dropped back to one under par with a bogey on the par-three 12th hole.

However, he rallied, coming home with four straight birdies from the 13th, before a six-iron to 15-feet on the par-five last provided him with his second eagle of the day and a seven-under-par total of 64.

Walters shares the lead with Floris de Vries, of the Netherlands. Five shots ahead of the rest of the field, the pair look favourites to claim two of the three available places at Royal St George's.

It was a welcome turn-around for Walters, who failed to make the cut at last week's Joburg Open held on both the east and west courses. "

It was playing long today. If you keep it in the fairway then it's not too bad, but otherwise it's very long, but I guess that's its only defence today," he said.

"Last week, I kept playing conservatively and taking three-wood off the tee short of the bunker on 18, but today I was feeling it and I hit a great drive which allowed me to hit a six-iron in to 15 feet. I had a good read from my caddie and it went in, so it was a great way to finish."

De Vries started quickly en route his round of 64, with five birdies over the first nine holes.

Three more birdies and a bogey saw him consolidate his position on the inward half, on a course where he flourished last week, finishing tied-13th at the Joburg Open.

Martin Maritz, of South Africa, and England's Andrew Marshall were tied for third on two-under par, with five more players completing their rounds on one under par.

The leaders will play together in the second round.

A field of 36 players is contesting 36 holes in the qualifier. The top three, after Thursday's second round, will earn a place at the 140th Open Championship, to be held at Royal St George's in Kent, England, from July 13 to 17.