Johan du Buisson knows golf too well to read too much into his opening six-under-par 66 on Thursday, but to be one off the pace in the opening round of the R550,000 Sun City Challenge made him smile as much as he has all year.
He trailed leader Brandon Pieters who carded a fine seven-under-par 65, and he shared second after the opening round on the tough 6,983-metre Lost City Golf Course with Daniel Hammond, Andrew Georgiou, Bryce Easton, Trevor Fisher Jnr and Allan Versveld.
ÂI think my gameplan was good Â fairways and greens,Â said the 32-year-old Stellenbosch professional, Âand I made some good putts Â but golf is not always that easy.
And after he came second in the 2010 Zambia Open Â his best finish on the Sunshine Tour since he turned pro in 2009 Â he probably felt entitled to expect more of his game.
But he managed only two more top 10s in 2011, and his 2012 is a litany of four missed cuts.
This month, he finally got into the money with a 32nd in Swaziland and a 34th at Simola Â hardly enough to keep a career flourishing.
So the 66 was a day to be treasured. ÂIÂm starting to get my confidence back,Â he said. ÂItÂs very tough to battle the way I have been. It breaks you. You know you have it in you but you just canÂt get over the hurdles.
ÂBut itÂs nice getting the scores back under par again. Getting a round like this really helps. I was struggling, but I have been working hard and itÂs paying off so far.Â
Pieters is another player who has had to knuckle down and work to turn around a poor 2012: ÂToday showed what a bit of practice in the last week or two can do,Â said Pieters. ÂPractice is just hard work, really. If you want to get somewhere in this game, youÂve got to work really hard and IÂve just had a lot of things on my plate this year. But IÂve been given an opportunity to play and practice again, so IÂm going to take it with both hands.Â
And sharing second with Du Buisson was rookie Hammond, who only made it into the main draw of the tournament in a playoff for the final spot with a one-under 71.
He was five strokes better in the opening round with seven birdies and a bogey, all the more remarkable given it was only his second time around the Lost City.
Easton also had a bogey in his round, but five birdies and an eagle helped him on his way; Georgiou was error-free in his round, continuing a good run for him lately, and it has come in tome for his maiden appearance in next monthÂs Open Championship.
Fisher and Versfeld played in the afternoon field, and they, too, had a dropped shot in their rounds, but some good scoring kept them in touch with the top of the leaderboard and a stroke clear of Toto Thimba and Callie Swart who were on five-under.