Swirling wind no problem for Garcia
Despite the capricious wind, Spain’s Sergio Garcia blazed a trail around the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.
He holds a four-shot lead after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and a blemish-free round of 64.
His four-shot cushion is the biggest after the opening round on the European Tour this year but he insisted he had to keep his wits about him.
“It was a great day‚” Garcia said. “But it wasn’t that easy.
“The course was tricky. The wind was up at times. We know how much it swirls here.
“You can play a hole in four different types of wind. It doesn’t make any sense but you have to trust it.
“Sometimes you are going to get it right‚ sometimes you are going to get it wrong.
“I was fortunate to get it right a lot of the time. To go bogey-free is always great.”
Although the conditions were tricky, the component parts of Garcia’s game were in place.
“Everything worked well. I drove the ball nicely. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens,” the Spaniard said.
“I was able to make a couple of really nice putts.
“On a course like this, you are not going to hit it to [within] two feet every time. It just doesn’t happen.”
Garcia‚ who earned a confidence-building win at his home event at Valderrama earlier this year‚ was acutely aware everything fell into place for him on the opening day and stressed that there was still a long way to go.
“It’s early days. Anyone could go out there and shoot 64. You have to keep going,” he said.
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel shared second place with Finland’s Mikko Korhonen and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
Schwartzel and countryman Louis Oosthuizen‚ who is on three-under‚ lamented the swirling winds in the Pilanesberg crater.
“The wind blew a lot in the beginning. On this course your start is key,” Schwartzel said.
“I only made one bogey‚ [which was] on eight. The wind turned on us and I came up way short.”
The former Masters champion was satisfied with his round and believes a 16-under total after four rounds will be hard to beat.
Defending champion Branden Grace finished two-under‚ while fellow South Africans Dean Burmester (level)‚ Darren Fichardt and Brandon Stone (both two-over) had underwhelming opening rounds.
Tournament favourite Rory McIlroy‚ who finished level par‚ rued a poor back nine.
“I actually played pretty nicely on the front nine but it was a bad‚ bad finish‚” he lamented.
“The driver let me down a couple of times, which left me out of position and led to a couple of big numbers.
“If I can tidy that up for tomorrow I should be all right, but obviously I’m disappointed right now so I’ll go and regroup and get back at it tomorrow.”