JOHANNESBURG – Neil Schietekat shot a 9-under 62 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead in the first round of the Joburg Open.
The South African had nine birdies in his round on the West course and leads Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke, Jbe’ Kruger, Simon Khan and David Lynn.
“It’s all about putting, and I actually changed my putting grip just before the Alfred Dunhill Championship and it’s started to pay off now,” Schietekat said. “When I teed off today, I thought that we were on the easier course, the West course, and I knew that around 5 or 6 under would be a good one.”
The tournament, which is being played at the East and West courses at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, is the richest of the four Sunshine Tour events co-sanctioned by the European Tour. It is the fourth tournament in this year’s Race to Dubai.
Playing together on the shorter West course, considered by most of the 210-man field to be the easier of the two, Schwartzel and Clarke shot 63.
Schwartzel, who won last week’s Africa Open, four-putted on the 12th hole and made a double-bogey. But that was after a run of seven consecutive birdies which started at the fifth hole.
“I think seven is the most I have made,” Schwartzel said. “I made six at a tournament somewhere. I can’t remember where.”
Clarke was steady and flawless as he opened with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, and picked up three more ahead of the turn. Despite that, he was still one behind Schwartzel, but three more on the way in – including one at the 17th – drew him even.
“I hit it close a lot of times, and the only putt I really holed was on 17 from about 20 feet,” Clarke said.
The best scores on the East course came from Barry Lane and Danny Willett, who each shot 65 and play on the West course in the second round.
Defending champion and 2009 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner Anders Hansen (73) played on the East course.