Four-hour delay doesn’t deter Jamie in Joburg Open

He took more than four hours over a birdie putt of eight feet, but England’s Jamie Elson rammed it home after a weather delay and it helped him to a share of the first-round lead of the Joburg Open.

He joined Damien McGrane at the head of the leaderboad at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in the first round of the €1,3-million tournament at eight-under-par 63 on the par-71 West Course, one stroke clear of Desvonde Botes, who carded a superlative seven-under-par 65 on the par-72 East Course.

There were still players out on the course as the siren sounded just before 7pm, as a series of persistent electric storms held up play for over four hours from just after lunch till just before 6pm.

It didn’t deter Elson much: “I had just hit a good shot on 16, the par-three, and there was a strong downwind,” he said. “With the water short it was a pretty good shot and left myself with an eight-footer when I resumed play. I managed to knock that in and then finished well.”

He started superbly too. “I got off to a flyer. I birdied the first, second, third and then chipped in at the fourth,” he said. He followed with another two before the ninth to turn in 30.

But he let his iron grip slip a little: “I hit driver off 10, which was an error. We walked the course yesterday and we circled the spot I wanted to hit it to, which was a three-wood shot, but I had been hitting driver well, so we went with driver and I hit a poor shot and made five there. And then another poor shot at the next compounded the error and I made two bogeys in a row,” he said.

But after that, he didn’t put a foot wrong as he made four more birdies to give him a nice little burst of momentum ahead of his round on the more difficult East Course – something he is eagerly anticipating.

“I had a good year here last year – I think I shot six-under on the second day at the hard course, so if I can do that again it would be nice,” he said.

Botes is another who finds the East Course an attractive proposition. “I’ve always enjoyed the East Course more,” he said. “As an amateur, I played close to 65 around here, but since I turned pro, I haven’t played well at this course.”

The secret, said Botes, is accuracy. “I kept it in play and made a lot of fairways. I also made a lot of greens – I think I only missed two the whole day.”

And lack of accuracy was precisely the problem confronting defending champion Charl Schwartzel. He was on level-par on the 16th tee when the siren sounded, and it brought an end to a day on which he made four birdies and four bogeys.

But he will take solace from the fact that his victory last year was built on a superb 10-under-par 61 on the West Course on the second day.

For now, though, McGrane and Elson will sleep easy after a job well done.

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