Justin Harding was in two minds about what club to use for his approach from the fairway at Pretoria Country Club’s 402-metre par-4 11th hole Thursday on his way to a sizzling seven-under-par 63 in the first round of the Tshwane Open.
“I had 174 metres in and it was a tough shot with the wind in off the left and the pin tucked in a tight spot in the corner back right. It was either a six-iron or a seven-iron but the rough is quite severe over the back of the green so I opted for the seven,” said the Stellenbosch Golf Club professional who turned 30 earlier this week.
“I put an aggressive stroke on it and it came out just perfect and ended up about a foot from the hole to set up a birdie three. That I reckon was my shot of the day not only because it was well executed but because it sparked a hot back nine for me. Twelve is a long par-5 (568m) but after that nice little three I’d just made I tackled it with a positive frame of mind and hit driver, three wood just short of the green and two-putted for another birdie.
“There are some tough holes on the back nine at Pretoria Country Club and 13 is one of them but I rolled in a snake there for my third straight birdie.”
Routine pars followed at holes 14, 15 and 16 but at the short par-4 17th Harding again hit his second stone dead to pick up another shot.
Now the 460m 18th, a par-5 for the members, has been converted into a par-4 for the purposes of this European Tour event co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour. “It’s a tough driving hole but I managed to find the fairway although I hit my four-iron approach a little long and right,” Harding said. “I had a tight lie chipping back onto the green which ran away from me – not easy. I caught it a bit fat and the ball would have gone miles past the cup if it hadn’t hit the pin dead centre and dropped into the hole for a closing bird. Jammy? Yes, but I’ll take it with a smile – a 30th birthday present I guess. That added up to a (five-under-par) back nine of 30 and I was super-chuffed. But, as I said, that seven-iron at 11 was the spark that really got me going today.”