19th May 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Byrd and Bekker share lead of Lombard on day one
American Zack Byrd and Oliver Bekker emerged the lowest scorers after the first round of the Lombard Insurance Classic as they both shot nine-under-par 63s to share the lead at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.
The American had a solid start to this event as he made five birdies on a flawless front nine and then followed that up with an even stronger homeward stretch. Successive bogeys on 10 and 11 threatened to spoil the rookie’s day but a masterful recovery saw him card four more birdies and eagle on the par-five 17 on his way home.
“Last week (Investec Royal Swazi Open) I hit it phenomenal but I didn’t really putt great. I just hit it close a lot,” he said. “But today I didn’t really hit it that good but I putted the best I have putted in a year, so it was good to get off to a good start today.”
Bekker won’t be too disappointed with his bogey on 14 because the 10 birdies on his card on the first day of this 54-hole event have given him share of the lead. And, coming from a week off where he didn’t play any golf, Bekker knows how big a deal this lead is.
“I just came from a week off and I really didn’t have many expectations. I just came here to enjoy it,” he said, “but, I scrambled really well. I made some really nice putts. I think I had 23 putts. The greens here are a lot firmer, a lot faster (compared to two weeks ago).”
He says it’s down to him being easy on himself and just enjoying the game. “I think my mind-set has changed a bit towards golf. Not that I’m not taking it seriously but I’m not being hard on myself as I was in the past,” he said.
Tied in third spot are JJ Senekal and Doug McGuigan at seven-under 65. Senekal made one bogey and eight birdies to keep the momentum of what’s been a solid start for him to the new season.
Occupying fifth position after the first round are Chilean Antonio Costa, Heinrich Bruiners, Justin Harding, Christiaan Basson, Lyle Rowe, Jean Hugo and Theunis Spangenberg who are all on six-under 66.
The Royal Swazi layout seems to allow for some low scoring this week and the next two rounds will be interesting to watch.