Garcia en­joys blem­ish-free round

Business Day - - SPORTS DAY - Liam Del Carme

De­spite the capri­cious wind, Spain’s Ser­gio Garcia blazed a trail around the Gary Player Coun­try Club on Thurs­day.

He holds a four-shot, firstround lead at the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge af­ter a blem­ish-free round of 64. His four-shot cush­ion is the big­gest af­ter the open­ing round on the Euro­pean Tour in 2018, but he in­sisted he had to keep his wits about him.

“It was a great day‚” Garcia ac­knowl­edged. “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. Not all the time. But to go bo­gey-free is al­ways great.”

Though the con­di­tions were tricky, Garcia got most of his game right.

“Ev­ery­thing worked well. I drove the ball nicely. I hit a lot of fair­ways and a lot of greens. I was able to make a cou­ple of re­ally nice putts‚” he said.

“On a course like this you are not go­ing to hit it to [within] two feet ev­ery time. It just does not hap­pen.”

Hav­ing earned a con­fi­dence­build­ing win at his home event at Valder­rama ear­lier in 2018, Garcia is acutely aware ev­ery­thing fell into place for him on the open­ing day. He stressed that there is still a long way to go in the event.

“It’s early days. Any­one could go out there and shoot 64. You got to keep go­ing.”

SA’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. It was straight into the wind. On this course your start is key. I only made one bo­gey‚ [which was] on eight. The wind turned on us and I came up way short‚” said Schwartzel.

The for­mer Mas­ters cham­pion was sat­is­fied with his round and he be­lieves a 16un­der 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, adding that “the driver let me down a cou­ple of times”.

/Gor­don Arons/Gallo Im­ages

Great day: Ser­gio Garcia pro­duced an ex­cel­lent round in Sun City to lead by four strokes.

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