Big names struggle

2007-12-14 00:00

A tail wind like that from a Boeing jet engine blew the field away in yesterday’s first round of the South African Open at Pearl Valley Golf Estates, Paarl, with only four players able to break par.

Unheralded Englishman Robert Rock produced a solid two under par 70 in the gusting conditions to lead the championship by one over Ulrich van den Berg, Alex Haindl and Charl Schwartzel, with Darren Clarke in a group on level par.

But the bigger names in the field were blown about like fynbos.

Retief Goosen struggled to a two over par 74 in which he bogeyed three holes in four over the turn. Tim Clark made four bogeys in five holes over the turn on his way to a three over 75.

Greg Norman signed for a 75 with two double bogeys on his card. Ernie Els opened with a five over par 77 including consecutive double bogeys, the second of which was as a result of failing to announce he was hitting a provisional off the tee on the par-four 17th when he thought his first drive was out of bounds. The world number five found his first ball, but because of his earlier infringement was prevented from playing it.

And U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera made it into the clubhouse with a round of eight over par 80.

The drama was intensified by Trevor Immelman retiring from the championship after two holes because of a rib injury. The two-time champion was later diagnosed with a lesion on the 11th right rib, which will require surgery and put him out of the game for between four and six weeks.

“I was hoping to play through the pain and continue the tournament, but the pain intensified to the degree that I was struggling to breathe and also to swing,” Immelman said.

Immelman’s fellow professionals may well have felt he got off lightly on a day when playing 18 holes was just as painful.

“It was rewarding and punishing out there,” said Rock. “But I’m not bothered by the wind. You have to accept that you’re not going to get it as close to the hole as you normally would. This is a week for chipping and putting.”

At one shot off the pace, Schwartzel was certainly pleased with his performance under the circumstances.

“It was very tough out there, especially for scrawny guys like me. Putting was very difficult. You know, playing in the wind with balls wobbling on the green and the wind blowing you all over the show. It was tough. It felt like I shot 65,” he said.

South African Amateur champion Louis de Jager surprised all with his 74, which he produced playing alongside Els.

SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN

Leading scores yesterday after the first round of the South African Open at Pearl Valley Golf Club (x denotes amateur):

70 — Robert Rock (ENG)

71 — Ulrich van den Berg (RSA), Alex Haindl (RSA), Charl Schwartzel (RSA)

72 — Kyron Sullivan (WAL), Euan Little (SCO), Gary Boyd (ENG), Andrew McLardy (RSA), Darren Clarke (NIR), Andrew McArthur (SCO), Neil Schietekat (RSA)

73 — Rafael Cabrera Bello (ARG), George Coetzee (RSA), David Frost (RSA), James Kingston (RSA), Craig Lile (RSA), Paul Waring (ENG)

74 — Nic Henning (RSA), Steven Jeppesen (SWE), Louis de Jager (RSA x), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Ryan Tipping (RSA), Retief Goosen (RSA), Richard Sterne (RSA), Jaco van Zyl (RSA)

Selected

75 — Tim Clark (RSA), Greg Norman (AUS)

77 — Ernie Els (RSA)

80 — Angel Cabrera (ARG).

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