“It all came together” for Doug McGuigan during the first round of the Investec Royal Swazi Open on Wednesday, where he strung together 17 points under the modified stableford scoring format and led the first round.
“Any day you make nine birdies is a good one. I started hitting the ball flush and made some putts, so it was the kind of round where I kept scoring,” said the six-time Sunshine Tour winner.
It was a beautiful day for golf at Royal Swazi Sun Country Club, with little wind and temperatures rising to 25 degrees Celsius. The golf was hot as well, with the professionals collectively making 18 eagles and 301 birdies.
The modified stableford scoring format of the tournament tempts the players to attack the course. Points are awarded as follows: eight for an albatross, five for an eagle and two for a birdie. Par is worth zero points, while a bogey costs one point and a double bogey or worse costs two points.
McGuigan proved the value of making birdies during his round and staked out a one-point lead. It took determination for the Ebotse Links professional to keep scoring.
“I made one little error on the 10th, but otherwise it was a great round. I had a lot of focus today and it was refreshing to get my mind right like that. If you had offered me 17 points at the start of the day I would have taken it and run,” he said.
Drikus van der Walt was a close second on 16 points, which came on the back of eagles at the fifth and 12th. The 25-year-old was pleased to set a good foundation for the coming three days.
“Things went well today and 16 points is hard to complain about. You can play a little more aggressively, because a birdie is two points and a bogey is minus one point. And making two eagles really helped!” he said.
Rhys West got his campaign going with a respectable 14-point haul and held third place, while JC Ritchie and Charl Coetzee shared fourth on 13 points each.
“I think every round is different and you have to stay as positive as you can,” said West. “You can birdie every single hole on this course, and when you don’t then you start to put pressure on yourself. Today it took some time for me to settle down, but once I relaxed then I started to hit it really good.”