Hennie Otto carded a bogey-free 67 at Aloha Golf Club on Thursday and was one of five players sharing second, but remained three strokes shy of Italian Matteo ManasseroÂs superb opening 64.
ÂIt was a solid day out there. Nothing spectacular, just hit good shots and made the putts that needed to be made. I had two good par putts, but other than that it was just solid,Â he said.
The South African Open Champion birdied the last to finish the first 18 at five-under, and was the only player in the top 10 to keep bogeys off his card during the first round of the Open de Andalucia.
ÂIÂm playing nicely, just some nitty-gritty stuff I have to sort out, but IÂm pretty confident. All golfers are perfectionists, so thereÂs always something you want to work on,Â said Otto.
A birdie at the ninth, which came from a chip to two feet, highlighted his round and, when combined with his birdies at the fifth and eighth, led the 35-year-old through his front loop at three-under.
ÂThere are a lot of chances out there. The greens are a bit difficult, but theyÂve firmed up since Tuesday. ItÂs a little up and down and there are some blind shots every now and then, but thatÂs Spain for you. They like these little tricky golf courses,Â he said.
Otto went further in explaining the unusual setup of the Spanish course, but clearly had no problem making adjustments to his style Â he birdied the 14th and 18th to close out the round at five-under.
ÂThe (course) conditions are good, which is nice, and weÂll see what the week is going to give us. The putter must just work properly and this will be a good challenge. The short holes are pretty long, and that makes up for the short par fives. If you can go round level-par on the par threes then you gain a short on the field, so the par threes are most important on this golf course,Â he said.
19-year-old Manassero carded nine birdies en route to matching the course record and claiming an speedy three-stroke lead. A lone bogey at the seventh could not derail the Italian and he carded a further six birdies before signing for 64. ÂI hit pretty much everything right, apart from one shot. I put the ball in the right places and putted really well,Â he said.
Bloemfontein local Alex Haindl carried his share of second at the Telkom PGA Championship through to Spain, carding a respectable 68 and claiming a first-round share of eighth.
Jaco van Zyl had a steady round Â he made four birdies and one bogey, singing for 69 and sharing 14th with, among others, Darren Fichardt.
If van ZylÂs round was calm, FichardtÂs was anything but – he opened with an eagle at the first and by the 16th had moved to six-under, yet dropped at the 17th and double-dropped at the 18th, ending the day at three-under. As strange a card as one could imagine.
Keith Horne, Warren Abery and Richard Sterne all shot one-over-par 73s and have work to do on Friday if they want to make the cut, which is projected at level-par.