Fast start by Clark sets marker in Nelson Mandela Championship

Tim Clark made the fast start he needed on Saturday with a five-under-par 60 in the rain-delayed opening round of the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.

After the first two days were lost to play as the Royal Durban Golf Club struggled to deal with the consequences of the heavy rains which have fallen in the past few months, play finally got underway on a course reduced from its initial par 70 of 6,194 metres (6,773 yards) to a par 65 of 5,594 metres (5,133 yards).

Clark made six birdies and a bogey in his round to lead Durban Country Club professional Lindani Ndwandwe by one, with England’s Matthew Southgate and South Africa’s Colin Nel and Christiaan Basson on three-under-par in an early share of third.

“It’s really a case of when we did get to play, come out, try and play well and put yourself in a position,” said Clark. “So I’m happy to have done that; we obviously can’t tell what the future holds, but I do hope we get to play some more golf.”

After the disruptions caused by rain on Thursday and Friday, the tournament directors of the European Tour and Sunshine Tour, which are co-sanctioning the €1-million event, said their objective was to get 36 holes played by the field by Sunday evening in order to be able to declare a result.

If there is further disruption, and it is possible to complete the 36 holes on Monday morning, that will be done. With the tournament essentially reduced to a sprint, Clark was conscious of making as many birdies as possible, and was less cautious than he might have been. “I was hitting a lot of drivers, I was certainly not trying to play it safe out there. I was being aggressive,” he said.

Clark grew up around Royal Durban, but he last played it so long ago – and the course is in such a different state to what he remembered – that there was no advantage to be gained from his local knowledge.

“I was amazed at how good the greens were with all the rain they had,” he said. “The greens were pretty firm and obviously great to putt on. I made some good putts and that’s really what gives me this score. I gave myself a lot of chances, and I made some good twos on some of those par threes.”

That approach will make him tough to beat in the race to the finish.

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