The Goose and Ce­jka go head-to-head

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GRANT WIN­TER

SOUTH AFRICAN golf fans dream about this coun­try’s two fa­mous golf­ing sons, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, go­ing headto-head on one of the world’s great­est golf cour­ses with a na­tional open or even a Ma­jor ti­tle at stake.

Well, the stage is set for just such an in­trigu­ing sce­nario this week­end.

It might not be a Ma­jor but the 100th edi­tion of the South African Open be­ing staged at the clas­sic mas­ter­piece that is Dur­ban Coun­try Club still ranks pretty highly in any­one’s book.

Af­ter al­most the whole day on Thurs­day was lost to play be­cause of rain and a wa­ter­logged course, the weather cleared up yes­ter­day.

The course dried up, and there was even a touch of sun and blue sky as the first round was com­pleted on a day of ex­treme low scor­ing and ter­rific golf – with lit­er­ally hun­dreds of birdies, a cou­ple of dozen ea­gles and even an al­ba­tross two.

The Goose, who started his round at the 10th, led the morn­ing field home with a blis­ter­ing eight-un­der-par 64 which in­cluded a run of seven holes from the 18th (his ninth) that read 2-3-3-3-3-3-3 as against the par of 4-4-3-5-3-4-4.

That was re­mark­able. Re­mark­ably too, he also duffed two chips which led to a cou­ple of bo­geys.

Ger­many’s Alex Ce­jka then pro­duced a bo­gey-free, eight­birdie 64 in the af­ter­noon and he and Goosen top the leader­board.

The plan is to have the sec­ond round to­day, af­ter which the cut will be re­stricted to the top 50 play­ers and ties (in­stead of the usual 65) and – weather per­mit­ting – the fi­nal 36 holes will be held to­mor­row.

Also play­ing in the af­ter- noon yes­ter­day Els, chas­ing his fifth SA Open ti­tle, was just one un­der par through seven holes. But he blitzed the next 11 holes in six un­der to sign for a 65.

And it’s not only a GoosenCe­jka-Els show. Far from it. Other big name South Africans are very much in the hunt.

Charl Schwartzel, who has al­ready won the 2010 Sun­shine Tour Or­der of Merit, also shot 65 while Richard Sterne posted a 66 – a score matched by com­pa­tri­ots Jaco Ah­lers, Garth Mul­roy and Tyrone van Aswe­gan, Eng­land’s David Dixon and Spain’s Car­lod Del Moral. On 67, along­side a big group of play­ers, is Open cham­pion Louis Oosthuizen.

The Goose, who has won the SA Open twice be­fore, was clearly pleased with his round: “Yeah, a 64 is ob­vi­ously the way you’d want to start a tour­na­ment. I hit a lot of iron shots close out there to­day.”

One of those crisp, pow­er­ful irons was a five-iron ap­proach at the par-5 third hole which led to his sec­ond ea­gle of the day, af­ter – four holes ear­lier – he’d driven the green at the 250m par-4 18th hole be­fore rolling in a 25-footer for a two.

Els toured the back nine in just 31 strokes, which in­cluded an ea­gle two at the 310, par-4 13th where he boomed a big drive just short of the green and chipped in. “In your mind you tell your­self you are go­ing to chip it in, and then it hap­pens and that kind of got my adren­a­line go­ing,” said the three-time Ma­jor cham­pion.

Both Ce­jka, who cam­paigns on the US PGA Tour, and Schwartzel said some­thing had clicked with their swings on the range be­fore the start of the round. “I put the ball a bit for­ward in my stance, I com­mit­ted to it and it seemed to work,” said the Ger­man.

Fifty-some­thing se­niors Tony John­stone and Ga­van Leven­son, both for mer SA Open cham­pi­ons, turned back the clock yes­ter­day to card very re­spectable 69s.

John­stone, in fact, was a cham­pion here at Dur­ban Coun­try Club in 1993 when he shot a record 267 to out­gun a young, up-and-com­ing Els. Colin Nel, the promis­ing young Pi­eter­mar­itzburg golfer who won the re­cent Sun­shine Tour Q-School, also signed for 69 yes­ter­day while Eng­land’s Adam Gee had an al­ba­tross-two at the par-5 eighth hole en route to a 68. Top am­a­teur so far is Dylan Frit­telli whose 68 in­cluded two ea­gles.

The SA Open, with its € 1-mil­lion purse, brings the 2010 Sun­shine Tour to a close and is the sec­ond leg of the Euro­pean Tour’s 2011 Race to Dubai.

GALLO IM­AGES

ON COURSE: Retief Goosen set the pace with a 64.

GALLO IM­AGES

EYE ON THE GOOSE: Ger­many’s Alex Ce­jka

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