Fearless Charl takes Nedbank Golf Challenge lead

After he played the ninth as badly as he possibly could have on Thursday, Charl Schwartzel hit back with five birdies to card a four-under-par 68 to take a share of the first round lead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Defending champion Lee Westwood made an 18-footer for birdie on the 18th and moved to four-under with the last putt of the day to share the top of the leaderboard with the South African.

“I got angry and then I got fearless,” said Schwartzel of his homeward five-under-par 31, “and I just started firing at the flags.”

His aggression paid off as he and Westwood took a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, with six players in a share of fourth place at two-under-par.

Schwartzel’s tee shot on nine came in the midst of a rain shower, and his attempt to compensate for the change in conditions led to his downfall on that hole.

“I thought I had to hit it a little harder to get a decent second shot into the green,” he said, “and I just pushed it right.

“To be fair, I very nearly got the lay-up out of the rough with my seven-iron spot on, but it just hit a little branch and fell back into the rough,” he added.

He then deposited his third – an attempted five-iron for the middle of the green – into the water. A pitch from the drop zone and two putts saw him card a double-bogey seven on a hole which conceded four birdies and an eagle to his opponents.

Westwood was the man who made the eagle on nine, as he turned his poor start – a bogey on one – into two-under 34 through the turn.

He then made three birdies on his homeward nine, but the effect of those was somewhat spoiled by a bogey-four on the 12th.

Schwartzel, on the other hand, hit back immediately after his poor show on the ninth with a birdie on 10, and that set him back on the right track.

“The way I played on the back nine is more reflective of the way I have been playing lately,” he said. “I’ve been hitting the ball really well, and once I get the putts rolling, I’m getting into good positions in tournaments.”

He made three birdies in a row from 12, and another on 16 – he was the only player to make one on that hole on the day as he sank a 20-footer there.

Karlsson started the day with three consecutive birdies from the second, but a pair of bogeys on the inward nine rather arrested his progress, and world number one Luke Donald was one of the six on two-under as he made a double-bogey six on the 17th after he hit his first tee shot into the water.

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