The Goose and Cejka go head-to-head
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.
ON COURSE: Retief Goosen set the pace with a 64.
EYE ON THE GOOSE: Germany’s Alex Cejka