Van Zyl finds the rhythm

2013-02-15 00:00

EAST LONDON — While a world-class field of golfers were being blown away by gale-force winds on day one of the Africa Open Golf Challenge at East London Golf Club yesterday, South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl emerged from the carnage with a sensational six-under round of 66 to storm into an early lead of the event.

Van Zyl began his day at 7.40 am on the difficult ninth hole, and a 60-metre up and down there earned him a useful par to get things under way.

There had been much conjecture over playing the 11th hole as a par four instead of a par-five, and the strong westerly wind made it an extraordinarily long hole.

But there were no such problems for Van Zyl — a driver, a three iron and a 20-foot putt later, and he’d defied the odds to card a birdie.

“The 11th is a really good hole. It was a great par five to start off with, and they’ve moved the tees up about 50 yards, so your tee shot is really tight. The way it’s blowing you need to hit a very good shot to get it past those trees, so it’s playing really tough,” the 33-year-old explained.

A birdie at the 14th and an eagle at the par-five 15th took Van Zyl well into red numbers, and, despite gusts of wind in excess of 70 km/h, the Lonehill resident was sailing along at four under by the time he reached the fifth hole — his 15th of the day.

It just got better for Van Zyl, as he calmly knocked his drive onto the green at the short par four, and was contemplating an eagle putt before being rudely interrupted by the siren that signalled the suspension of play.

The jovial Van Zyl, however, wasn’t too disappointed with the decision by European and Sunshine Tour officials.

“I was definitely happy to come off. I was on the green for one on five, and everyone said ‘you’re in such a good rhythm, don’t you want to finish up?’

“The last three or four holes before that I was only thinking about getting off the golf course.” he smiled.

The near three-hour delay did little to scupper his momentum, and he returned to clinically close out his round with two birdies and two pars to reach an imposing score of six under.

“I’m hitting it nicely this week. I was battling with the swing a bit last week, and it’s nice that I carried the short game over.

“Hopefully I can keep up the form and have another shout on Sunday.

“It was really tough. A couple of hours before they called us off, and right up until the time, it was blowing.

“We were on two, three, four, five and we got to the top of the hill on five I could literally almost not stand up straight.” he recalled.

The overpowering winds are expected to relent today, although rain is likely to replace it as the main element the players will have to deal with.

Van Zyl has proven his ability to deal with adverse conditions, but concedes that reduced wind speeds would make life far more enjoyable.

“The course will get a little wet if it rains, so it’ll play a little bit longer.

“Hopefully the wind can die down a little bit — it’s pretty much the only defence this course has — but a 90 km/h wind is not really that welcome!” he joked.

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