Ser­gio puts Sun City course to the sword


SER­GIO Garcia “rolled the ball nicely” to storm to a blem­ish-free 64 and lead the Ned­bank Chal­lenge by four strokes yes­ter­day.

He birdied the first hole of the day in a sign of things to come, and then twice reeled off three birdies in a row – be­tween nine and 11, and again from 15 to 17 – to fin­ish four shots clear of Finn Miko Korho­nen, Mike Lorenzo-Vera of France and lo­cal man Charl Schwartzel.

“I felt great,” said Garcia af­ter­wards. “I rolled the ball nicely. I made some good putts here and there. One of those rounds where things kind of hap­pened nicely to me. I think I played very smart. I prob­a­bly wasn’t swing­ing un­be­liev­ably, but I kept it un­der con­trol. I kept the ball in play all the time, which is dif­fi­cult to do here.”

For Garcia, be­ing able to read the swirling winds around a course sit­u­ated in a bowl of moun­tains was key.

“I man­aged to guess some of the winds here right. That is very, very dif­fi­cult, and you know, when you can do that here, it’s nice to be able to shoot a score like I did. This is not a golf course that plays easy when it’s a lit­tle bit breezy like it was to­day. When it swirls, it’s even tougher.”

On a day on which many of the big names found trou­ble at least once or twice dur­ing the round – favourite Rory McIl­roy made two bo­geys and a dou­ble – Garcia’s per­for­mance was all the more im­pres­sive. He didn’t try to over­power the course.

“It’s very im­por­tant to keep the ball in play as much as pos­si­ble here and that’s what I was try­ing to do when I didn’t feel com­fort­able with the driver,” he said. “If it got too nar­row, I hit some­thing less than that and tried to play the hole maybe a lit­tle bit tougher. It worked out well.

“I man­aged to keep the ball in play nicely. I hit a lot of greens, which is im­por­tant to do here with the lit­tle spots that you can put the pins in, and I man­aged to roll some nice putts.”

His putting was cer­tainly im­pres­sive, par­tic­u­larly on nine and 11. On nine, he rolled in a 35-footer for ea­gle, and his birdie putt on 11 hit the hole at speed to go in.

“Ob­vi­ously they are not the kind of putts that you ex­pect to make,” he said, “but when you give your­self a lot of chances, ob­vi­ously your pos­si­bil­i­ties of mak­ing them are a lit­tle bit big­ger and I was able to roll in three or four re­ally nice putts.”

Be­hind Garcia, Lorenza-Vera was bo­gey-free for his 68, while Korho­nen and Schwartzel each dropped just once.

A fur­ther stroke back on 69 was a group of six play­ers, which in­cluded South Africa’s 2010 Open cham­pion Louis Oosthuizen.

He got off to a fast start and was four-un­der af­ter seven, but a bo­gey at eight seemed to un­set­tle him and he made just one more birdie and an­other bo­gey on his way home.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Bran­den Grace, also of South Africa, carded a two-un­der 70 to find him­self six off the pace.

| Sun­shine Tour

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