Dean Burmester showed the benefit of some time off from golf on Friday as he carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 in the opening round of the Sunshine Tour’s return to action in 2021, the Kit Kat Group ProAm at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Burmester last played tournament golf in the European Tour’s Saudi International at the beginning of February when he finished in a share of 41st to round off an uninspiring start to the year. But time practicing at home paid off as he started his round on the 10th and made three birdies going out, and four coming home to finish the day in a share of the lead with Ockie Strydom.
“It was great to spend time at home in George with the family,” said Burmester, “and the time I spent practicing looks like it has paid off. Certainly, my game is trending in the right direction.”
To have gone bogey-free around the East Course at Royal, which is widely regarded as a lengthy and stern test, showed Burmester he is doing a lot right as he prepares to head back to the European Tour next week. “The tightness off the tees and the trees lining the fairways make this a very challenging course to play,” he said. “I did hit some poor shots today, but I hit them in the right places. I also landed in three bunkers, and got up and down from all three.”
All of that showcased his short game, which he reckons was the biggest beneficiary from the time away from tournament play. He still remains one of the longest drivers on tour. But he bagged his driver for much of the first round. “I only hit the driver seven times today,” he said, “and I used way more three woods than I usually do. I only played the back nine in practice before the tournament, and that was something I decided on.”
Strydom’s round had an eagle, eight birdies and three bogeys in it. So he made only six pars as he showed that aggression could be as much of a scoring strategy as Burmester’s caution was.
The pair lead by two from Malcolm Mitchell, Jake Redman and Rhys Enoch of Wales, with Jacques Kruyswijk, Jake Roos, Matias Calderon of Chile, Hennie du Plessis, Keith Horne, and the left-handers Ruan Korb and Garrick Higgo all on five-under in a share of sixth.