Neil Cheetham produced the only bogey-free round of the day on Wednesday as his five-under-par 67 took the first round lead of the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at Legend Golf and Safari Estate.
The 44-year-old Englishman who plays out of Country Club Johannesburg tamed a course that many were calling a ÂmonsterÂ, even though he had to use long irons in to some of the par fours.
ÂI even had to take two-iron in on the ninth,Â he said, Âand I managed to get it close enough to make birdie. And on the fifth, I had three-iron in and I was still 60 metres short!Â
His consistency in the face of the tough challenge gave him a single stroke edge over Ockie Strydom and Desvonde Botes, who each dropped just a single shot on their way to a pair of 68s, with six players on three-under-par 69 in a share of fourth place.
Cheetham has yet to win on the Sunshine Tour after 96 starts, coming closest when he lost a play-off in the 2004 Dunhill Championship to Charl Schwartzel.
But he does have two of his 10 top-10 finishes on the Sunshine Tour to his credit this year, and a start such as this will push him very close to that elusive victory.
Strydom has made only three cuts on the Sunshine Tour this year, but he converted the experience he has gained on the developmental Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage Â three second places Â into a card that had five birdies and just a single dropped shot as he shared second with the veteran Botes.
ÂI made a stupid drop on 17,Â he said, Âbut I made it up on 18 so IÂm happy with a good round. I hit the ball very well.
Botes has been using the broomstick putter for 15 years, so he is unconcerned with the debate raging over its use on the US PGA Tour after Keegan Bradley became the first man to win a major with one in the PGA Championship last month.
ÂItÂs not as if it has made my putting brilliant,Â said Botes. ÂI have been battling a bit with it recently, but I putted well today, and that helped.Â
Amongst the six on three-under was Charl Coetzee, returning to some good form after shoulder surgery in March which repaired a joint that was ÂshatteredÂ.
ÂItÂs fantastic to play pain-free,Â he said, and his share of fourth with Albert Pistorius, Irvin Mazibuko, Steven Ferreira, Louis de Jager and Dean OÂRiley represented the start of a second consecutive week during which he has been in contention.