19th July 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Business as usual for Bremner in Nairobi
Merrick Bremner did what he usually does on his way to a seven-under-par 65 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the R2-million KCB Karen Masters at Karen Country Club in the Kenyan capital on Thursday.
He eagled the par-four 13th, made seven birdies and two bogeys and still had the edge over Anton Haig by one and over Ruan Conradie and Roberto Lupini by two when the dust settled on his round.
“I hit quite a few drivers out there today,” said Bremner. “I took some chances – maybe not really chances, but I was being a little more aggressive than I would usually be – and it paid off.”
That aggression came in the face of a short, tight course which many of the players feared would punish such impunity off the tee. But Bremner had played the course twice before, when the Challenge Tour held its Barclays Kenya Open on it, and he was able to take advantage of a degree of familiarity.
It wasn’t all familiar for him, though. “There are new greens since I was last here, and they are really good,” he said. “The surface is great to putt on. “The layout hasn’t changed much from what I can remember. I really enjoy the course. I like the shape of the holes. There are a couple that don’t agree with me, but that’s part and parcel of what you get, I suppose.”
A lot of the players were more circumspect, but Haig didn’t appear to be one of them, with his card showing two eagles, six birdies and four bogeys.
The eagles were crucial to the position in which he found himself at the end of the round. “It always helps when you make two eagles in a round,” he said after he started his day off on the 10th. “I hit a big drive down 18. I hit eight-iron to about 20 feet, and had quite a big slope in front of my putt and I made it. On the third, I hit a great drive and I had nine-iron in. I hit it to literally three feet and made the putt.”
The leading Kenyan player after the first round was Stefan Engell Andersen, who carded a four-under-par 68 to share fifth place with nine other players. He was happy with his start but professed feeling a little pressure as a local. “I’ve been struggling a bit technically, so it’s been nice to get a bit of positivity and confidence going,” he said. “There is some pressure. I don’t think I got a wink of sleep last night. You just have to stay in the process of what you’re trying to do.”
Amongst the players sharing fifth with Andersen was Jake Roos, the last South African to win on the course when he took the 2014 Barclays Kenya Open.
Lurking just one back from that big group on four-under was two-time Sunshine Tour winner in 2018, Justin Harding, who got it to six-under for the day, but battled tiredness after his trip back from a victorious trip to Indonesia on his Asian Tour debut last week. Three bogeys dropped him to four shots off the pace.
For Bremner, it will probably be more of the same for the rest of the week. “We’ll just have a look how the course plays tomorrow and take it from there,” he said. With at least three driveable par-fours, the fans could be in for some thrills.