Box smarter than usual, says Horne

day One of the SA Open Championship at the Glendower Golf Club, Johannesburg, South Africa.

There wasn’t a player in the 156-strong field that finished the first round of the 104th South African Open Championship without leveling a strong opinion about the brutal rough at Glendower Golf Club on Thursday.

The thick, long grass that hug the fairways and greens was simply too tough on a day when only 40 players managed to break par and you have to page down to two-over-par 74 to find amateurs Hendrikus Stoop and Tristen Strydom.

Tied for 79th, the pair and the rest of the amateur contingent will have their work cut out to make the cut on Friday.

Seven-time Sunshine Tour winner Keith Horne had a message for the younger, inexperienced players that failed the first round test.

“The course this year demands respect and accuracy,” said Horne, who finished five shots behind co-leaders Jbe’ Kruger and England’s Andy Sullivan after carding a one under 71.

“Kikuyu grass is always tough, but they have had a lot of rain here. They’ve only been cutting the top of the rough and this has left the blades are thicker and wider and it really grabs the club.

“You have to box smarter than usual. The rough is thick and wiry and the fairways are very tight. My playing partners and I almost never took driver, because the risk is too great. If you just go slightly offline, you are punished.”

The amateurs would do well to heed Horne’s advice, because a look at the leaderboard confirms that the seasoned campaigners definitely served up the kind of performance the championship course demands.

Four-time Major winner Ernie Els, former SA Open winner Richard Sterne and Denmark’s Lasse Jensen are one of the pace, while 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, seasoned campaigner David Drysdale,  six-time European Tour champion Niclas Fasth, European Ryder Cup hero Edoardo Molinari from Italy and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin are among the players who lurk in the wings.

Stoop and Strydom both reeled in three birdies, but Centurion’s Stoop squandered his advantage with double bogeys at the 10th and 14th, while Strydom from Ekurhuleni wiped out his gains with bogeys at the fifth, eighth, ninth, 11th and 18th holes.

Central Gauteng Open champion Matthew Spacey had two double bogeys on the front nine to finish a further shot adrift.

Reigning SA Stroke play champion Jason Smith briefly shared the lead on three under after a flawless front nine, but back-to-back double bogeys at the second and third holes wrecked his momentum.

The 23-year-old TuksSport Golf Academy player had dropped two more shots at the fifth and six, double bogeyed the seventh and traded a birdie at the eighth for a bogey at the ninth to sign for a five over 77.

Former professional Gerlou Roux and qualifier Andi Dill also found the going tough. Roux closed with a 78, while Dill completed the first round in 79 strokes.

PHOTO – Jason Smith; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA