Desvonde’s putting sees him scorch to a Swazi 63

His putter co-operated and Desvonde Botes took advantage to fire a bogey-free nine-under-par 63 on Friday to take the early first round lead of the R850,000 Lombard Insurance Classic.

He chipped in on the first hole of the day to open with an eagle two, which got his round off to the kind of start that would make anyone happy, and he made it count around the 6,140-metre Royal Swazi Spa layout.

Seven birdies later, and he held a two-stroke lead over Jacques Blaauw, with Johan du Buisson, Chris Swanepoel and Vaughn Groenewald another two back on five-under-par 67.

There was a group of four on four-under 68, including Attie Schwartzel, who had a remarkable run of six consecutive birdies from the 12th to the 17th.

Also in that group was the 2009 tournament champion Peter Karmis, who holds the course record of 59, scored in the final round in that victory.

“The ball was really just rolling nicely off my putter,” said Botes, who finished in a share of fourth in the Investec Royal Swazi Open on the same course on May 8.

“I’ve been hitting the ball really well, but it’s been a while since my putter was even a little bit warm,” he added.

He managed to stay out of trouble all day, with the closest he came to dropping a shot when he made a 12-footer for par on the 175-meter par-three 18th.

“That was my worst tee shot of the round,” he said of the ball which ended up in the big bunker to the left of the green. His sand shot was not good as the ball bounced in the fringe, and rolled away left of the hole.

But the putt was secure and he gave an understated fist-pump to celebrate his best round in two years.

He last had a Sunshine Tour win in the Seekers Travel Pro-Am in 2006 for his 13th title. “I’m feeling pretty good about things right now,” he said of a run of three consecutive top-10 finishes. “Maybe today was the round which will turn things around.”

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