Colsaerts storms to course record at Fancourt

He displayed all his wares as he turned for home on Thursday as Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts stormed to a course-record nine-under-par 64 in the opening round of the Volvo Champions at The Links at Fancourt.

Playing in the European Tour’s €2-million event over the 6,662-metre (7,271-yard) par-73 Gary Player-designed layout, he put a bogey on the sixth hole behind him and stormed home with nine birdies in the final 11 holes to put four strokes of daylight between him and the pursuing trio of England’s Tom Lewis and the South African duo of Branden Grace and Thomas Aiken.

“This is probably one of the best, if not the best round I have played,” said Colsaerts. “On a course like this, it is quite special.”

Grace, who won last week’s Joburg Open, and is a local, was somewhat taken aback to find himself trailing by quite that much. “I didn’t really expect it,” he said. “It will be nice to see how he can follow it up.”

Aiken was a little less surprised: “The way the course is playing, with the right amount of roll on the fairways, if someone keeps it straight off the tee, there are birdies to be had,” he said.

Colsaerts was in agreement about the condition of the course. “The greens are quite receptive, so if you hit good shots on the greens, the ball is going to stop pretty much where it lands,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s easier, but I think when the conditions are like they were today, you can shoot a low number like this.”

It helped that he hit a lot of his shots awfully close during two runs of four consecutive birdies: He hit eight-iron to eight feet on the par-three eighth, had a two-putt birdie on the par-five ninth, hit his nine-iron approach to five feet on the par-four 11th, and then off the tee on the par-three 12th, another nine-iron to two feet.

And for his second run of four in a row, he hit a nine-iron to six feet on the par-four 15th, a lob-wedge to six feet on the par-five 16th, a wedge eight feet past the hole on the par-three 17th and made a two-putt birdie on the final hole, a par-five.

“Every birdie just seemed from pretty close range,” he said. “I holed every chance I had.”

Grace overcame two consecutive bogeys on three and four on his way to 68. An eagle on the 520-metre (568-yard) ninth got his round on track as he chipped in after two good shots to the green. “I missed a couple of short ones, but I kept hitting the ball well and giving myself chances,” he said.

Lewis looked to be on track for a great round before a double-bogey seven on the 16th, but he recovered well with two birdies to close. “I hit one bad drive, but I should have done better than I did,” he said. “And to go birdie-birdie was something flukey, I guess.”

David Horsey, Joost Luiten, Louis Oosthuizen and Padraig Harrington all carded four-under 69 to trail by five.

Further back, Open champion Darren Clarke was one-over, while Masters champion Charl Schwartzel made five bogeys and three birdies for a disappointing two-over 75.

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