Thousands roar on rousing Rory
Catch of the day as Fisher jr, Horne take route 66 to lead SA Open by one
HOT favourite Rory McIlroy lived up to his billing and No 2 world ranking to sit one shot off the pace after the first round of the South African Open at Glendower yesterday.
The Northern Irishman thrilled the thousands of fans who turned up to watch with scintillating tee shots and equally impressive putting. After 18 holes the four-time Major winner had racked up seven birdies, to go with two bogeys and one shot off the lead set by two home grown players in Trevor Fisher jr and Keith Horne.
Fisher and Horne shot sixunder par 66s to lead by one over McIlroy, Thomas Aiken, Dean Burmester, Jbe Kruger, and Jordan Smith from England.
Both Fisher and Horne, who led after the first round here last year, made seven birdies and a lone bogey.
“It’s nice to make a good start,” said Horne. “I’m happy with my overall game, but especially the way I hit my irons today and the putting was good. I’m going to have to fix the tee box because I only hit four fairways.”
Horne could well have been in the outright lead had he not experienced a mini implosion on the par five 15th hole. He walked off with a bogey in what for many players yesterday was a birdie hole.
“It was disgraceful what happened there,” said Horne, who came in late in the day after teeing off in the afternoon. “I just lost concentration and it was an ugly bogey.”
Fisher, who was out early, said: “I hit some bad shots but also hit some good shots. The ball really went where I wanted it to go. In general I’m happy.”
Sitting just one back is McIlroy, who was off in front of thousands of fans at just after 7am yesterday morning. After missing a few good chances for birdie early in his round, he finally got hot and made four in a row from 14 through 17.
He made another at the par five second (his 11th hole of the day) and looked poised to take complete control of the round, but two poor approach shots at four and five cost him dearly. He bogeyed both to slip back into the field but the FedEx Cup champion bounced back late in his round, rolling in further birdies at six and eight.
“Yeah, it was good … I mean it was my first competitive round in 2017,” said McIlroy.
In fact, it was only the Northern Irishman’s second round on the layout. His only previous outing on the course was in Tuesday’s pro-am.
“I felt I gave myself a lot of chances, especially on my front nine … it could have been six or seven under. It was a bit scrappy in places, but it’s a good way to start the tournament.”
McIlroy birdied three of the four par 3s, knocking his tee shots very close at the sixth and 14th.
“I played the par 3s very well. I had some good iron shots, and some good drives, but I also made a couple of sloppy swings coming in, but that’s something I can hopefully work on and eradicate.”
Unfortunately for defending champion Brandon Stone, it was a day to forget; the winner here last year never getting into any kind of rhythm as he fired a disappointing 74, the same score as Ernie Els.
Retief Goosen also struggled to an 80, but veteran Sir Nick Faldo turned back the clock with an impressive 70, two under par at the age of 59. Well, he stuck it close on the par 3 sixth and 14th holes for birdies, but you can’t beat the 406 yard (371m) drive of Rory McIlroy on the par 5 15th. It doesn’t get bigger and better than that.
BIG SWING: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the SA Open Golf Championship at Glendower Golf Club in Ekurhuleni yesterday. McIlroy thrilled the fans with scintillating tee shots and equally impressive putting.