He might not be leading, but Colin Nel was very pleased with his four-under-par 67 on Thursday which left him one off the pace in the first round of the R600,000 Northern Cape Classic.
Until he dropped a shot the 16th, he was on course for a bogey-free card. But he managed to make up for the blemish with a pair of birdies to finish and move into a share of second after the opening round on the par-71 6,300-metre Kimberley Golf Club layout.
He trailed Oliver Bekker and Alex Haindl, who each carded five-under-par 66 in the morning before the wind came up, by one in a share of third with Trevor Fisher Jnr.
ÂThe birdie on 18 was a little lucky,Â Nel confessed of the 492-metre par-five closing hole. ÂI had a wedge in, and hit it in the bunker.Â
His bunker shot went nearly 15 feet past the hole and, with the greens difficult for most of the players, a par at best looked on the cards. But he stepped up and boxed the putt to edge one clear of a group of nine players on three-under in a share of fifth.
One of the players on three-under was Charl Coetzee, who, until he made bogeys on 10 and 12 after the turn, looked as if he had the makings of a round that would take him clear of the field.
He has only recently returned to being able to play pain-free after damaging ligaments in his right shoulder. ÂI canÂt tell you what a difference it makes to be able to be sure of my swing,Â he said. ÂAnd, of course, I can practice properly too,Â he added.
Bekker and Haindl each had two bogeys on their cards.
BekkerÂs round was underscored by an eagle-three on the seventh after he started the day on the 10th, and, together with five birdies, helped him get to the top of the leaderboard.
ÂItÂs been a frustrating year,Â said Bekker of a season which has had as many missed cuts as top-10s Â three of each. ÂNow I just want to put three good rounds together.Â
Haindl made seven birdies Â including three in succession from the second to the fourth Â in a round where his putting in difficult conditions was his strong suit in a game which has been coming to him over the last week.
ÂI didnÂt hit it that well last week,Â he said, Âbut I managed to put a good score together. And here, I just have to get myself in position to pick up some shots, and it should go well.Â
Nel has never had a top-10 finish in his Sunshine Tour career, but heÂs made four consecutive cuts recently after a string of missing out through May and June.
ÂItÂs feeling good,Â he said. ÂI just hope I can get another good round under my belt.Â