Rookie sets the pace at Leopard Creek

2010-12-10 00:00

MALELANE — Defending champion Pablo Martin had a front nine directly attributable to his jetlag in the opening round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship yesterday, but he still managed to be just three off the pace when he was done.

But he rifled his second on to the heart of the green on the 541-yard (495-metre) par-five 18th at Leopard Creek, and had an eagle putt.

In settling for birdie, he finished at three-under 69, not too far off the six-under-par 66 set by rookie Anthony Michael in the morning, which held up through the day for the lead.

“Not bad for a 14-hour flight from New York,” said Martin. “Maybe I’ll try that again.”

He was not the only player who had jetlag to contend with: one shot behind Michael was big Dawie van der Walt, who played in the PGA Tour Q-School Final Stage, which ended in California on Monday.

He atoned for a bogey on the 11th — his second hole of the day — with a burst of four birdies in the next seven holes to turn in three-under 34. Two more birdies in his homeward nine saw him join England’s Robert Rock, Sebastian Buhl of Germany and Dane Marius Thorp on 67.

Leader Michael dropped a shot on the 12th after he had moved to five-under-par through 10. But he pulled that shot back immediately on the 13th, and another for good measure on 14 for his 66.

He’s in second place in the Sunshine Tour’s Rookie of the Year race, a position gained by some good performances in some big tournaments — a share of fourth in the Africom Zimbabwe Open and a tie for ninth in the BMG Classic included.

“I find that I play very well under pressure,” he said by way of explanation. “I’ve always just enjoyed the pressure and I enjoy having people around me.”

One player who didn’t enjoy the round was Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. In a bad day at the office, he carded a four-over-par 76. Two double-bogeys and four bogeys could have been much worse had he not also made four birdies. — O.C.

Scores (RSA unless specified):

66 -Anthony Michael

67 -Robert Rock (ENG), Sebastian Buhl (GER), Dawie Van der Walt, Marius Thorp (NOR)

68 -Alvaro Velasco (ESP), Keith Horne, Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP), Andrew Georgiou, Klas Eriksson (SWE)

Selected:

70 -Colin Nel

72 -Daniel Greene.

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