Matthew Carvell found it easy to relax with his long-time friend Will Taylor on the bag, and shot a confident 64 at Centurion Country Club on Wednesday to share the Telkom PGA Pro-Am lead.
ÂItÂs enjoyable having a buddy on the bag. We had a laugh out there and enjoyed it, because we go a long way back. That really helps you relax and accept that whatever happens, happens,Â he said.
The 27-year-old, who finished 35th on the 2012 Order of Merit, showed no signs of struggling to regroup after the festive break and coasted to eight-under-par, joining EnglandÂs Ross McGowan at the top of the leaderboard.
ÂI was nervous at the start, because I was worried IÂd forgotten how to play golf,Â joked Carvell. ÂBut I hit the ball better than I expected to and I putted really well today Â no three-putts on these greens is pretty good. I didnÂt have any expectations, although I have been working hard and didnÂt take much time off during the break.Â
The Kyalami Country Club professional had a sterling day on the 6700-metre layout, avoiding bogeys and penciling in eight birdies during the round.
Low rounds have become the norm for Carvell, who missed only three cuts during the second half of last year. The consistency in his results is directly connected to hard work.
ÂI do feel comfortable being up there. ItÂs great to start this way, because you want to get back near the top of the leaderboard straight away. IÂm going out to try for a win this week, but I know that if I keep playing the way I am it will eventually come. It takes away from all of the hard work when you try to force a win.
ÂIÂm already into the Joburg Open, so IÂm not looking too far ahead. WeÂll take it from here and hopefully do some damage in the co-sanctioned events,Â he said.
Morning starter McGowan, who won the 2009 Madrid Masters, looked every inch the European Tour champion as he set the clubhouse lead on eight-under-par. Having lost the majority of his playing privileges due to a wrist injury, the 30-year-old has chosen the Sunshine Tour as the foundation upon which to rebuild his career.
ÂFirst tournament of the year and itÂs nice to get off to a good start,Â he said. ÂIÂve still got to get into Joburg Open, so the main goal is a top-five finish here. But if we can lift the trophy at the end of the week then itÂs even better!Â
Steven Ferreira also got the year off to a good start and shot 65, which included an eagle at the par-five third. His seven-under-par haul was enough for sole second at the close of round one.
ÂI definitely got it going today, just hitting all of the right shots. I only had 23 putts, with nine on the front nine, but I actually stayed calm out there and took it one shot at a time.
“IÂm looking forward to the season, because my game is where it needs to be. All of the preparation is done and now itÂs time to play,Â he said.