2011 Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel got off to a slow start on Thursday at The Joburg Open. The 29 year-old from Johannesburg shot a -3 under par 69 on the more difficult, West Course at The Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Course for the opener. A host of three players are tied at -7 under par for the lead with only Scot, Craig Lee playing the West Course as well. Co-leaders, fellow Scot, Alastair Forsyth, South African, Justin Walters, and Italian Edoardo Molinari all played on the East Course.
It looked like it was going to be a good day for the 2012 Joburg Open Champ when he picked up an eagle three at the par five opening hole. With a bogey at four, and a birdie at eight, Schwartzel made the turn on the par 71 layout at two under par. A double bogey at the 10th hole and three birdies down the stretch left the home-town boy in a tie for 42nd place, and four shots back.
Of the leaders, only Craig Lee played the West Course that is some 400 yards longer and the more difficult of the two courses. A bogey on the 17th hole left him at -7 under par, and cost him the outright lead.
“I’ve played really nice golf for that, so I’m delighted with the score that I’ve managed to put together,” said the 36-year-old, who carded eight birdies with a single dropped shot at the 17th after finding sand with his approach.
“I hit a lot of shots in to about 15 feet today and I didn’t hole that many of those putts, but then on the back I managed to knock in a few putts, so a game of two nines today.
Interest in the Joburg Open was heightened this year because the top three finishers who are not already qualified, will gain entry into the Open Championship in July. They must finish in the top ten to qualify. Of course there are Ryder Cup and Race To Dubai points up for grabs as well.
None of the four first-round leaders are ranked in the top 100 in the world, and Forsyth is ranked 840th. The top ranked player is Lee at 195.
Other notable South African players who are in Johannesburg this week are Richard Sterne, the 2013 champion who finished two shots back at -5 under par, and George Coetzee who is only one back at -6 under par.
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