Harding conquers cold to take early lead in Pretoria

Justin Harding won the final event of 2010’s Vodacom Origins of Golf series and he took the early first round lead of the 2011 series with a chilly three-under-par 69 around Pretoria Country Club.

His two-stroke lead as the morning field completed the round in cold and windy conditions around the 6,459-metre layout was something of a surprise as Trevor Fisher Jnr endured a horror finish to a round that promised much as he made five birdies in a row around the turn, but closed bogey-bogey-double to sign for a 71.

“Trevor had a bit of a rough finish,” said Harding, “and I just kind of hung in there.”

Evidence of his ability to keep a round on track came as he made successive bogeys on 12 and 13, a birdie on 14 and then pulled off a great up-and-down for par on 15.

“That up-and down was quite interesting,” he laughed. “I hit it about 20 metres left and the pin was tucked left. I bumped one through the bunkers and made about a 25-footer.”

Fisher’s one-under was matched by three others: Adilson Da Silva, who won the previous Sunshine Tour event a fortnight ago at Sun City, Pretoria Country Club’s own George Coetzee and Ulrich van den Berg.

Van den Berg’s round included a hole-in-one on the 144-metre 14th – his fifth hole of the day after he started on the 10th.

“It was the fourth ace of my career,” he said of the nine-iron which pitched straight into the hole – and damaged it to such an extent that a new hole had to be cut.

Five players were a further shot back at level-par on a day on which scoring was difficult.

“It was very, very cold,” said Harding, “and the wind’s blowing quite hard. It’s swirling around and making it difficult to pick clubs.”

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