At the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Sishen Golf Club on Wednesday, Jean Hugo shot seven-under-par 65, displaying the kind of form that earned him three victories in the Vodacom series last year.
ÂI finished fifth here last year and IÂve always shot good numbers. This is a great course Â itÂs quite tight and you have to stay out of the rough. There are a lot of chances out there so you just have to be patient and hit the fairways,Â he said.
At 6,450 metres Sishen Golf Club plays short, which means that the track offers up plenty of birdies. Such was the case during the morning of round one and Hugo, despite his low round, finished only one shot clear of Danie van Tonder and Christiaan Basson.
With the wind picking up through the day, Hugo was pleased to post seven-under and set up his tournament. He knew that scores could go very low during the next two days, and as has been said before Â you canÂt win it on the first day, but you can lose it.
ÂWe had the first nine with no wind and good conditions, and the course was playing a little easier than this afternoon. It was a good job after I turned one-under, because there are a few chances out there.
ÂIÂm happy with seven-under for the day. WeÂve been here before and itÂs a good start. ThereÂs a long way to go, but IÂve put myself up there,Â he said.
After starting at the 10th Hugo turned at one-under. Maybe it was the sandwiches through the turn, but something changed when he headed out for his second loop, which only took 30 strokes to complete. He backed up an eagle at the par-five sixth with four birdies spread across the nine to cruise into the early lead.
Basson led for most of the back stretch, but slowed down over the final six holes and reached the clubhouse at six-under-par. He played alongside Hugo and the pair did well to encourage each other. They also put on a spectacle for their amateur playing partners, carding 10 birdies and two eagles between themselves.
ÂWe fed off each other today. When your playing partner is doing well it motivates you to play better. I was playing nicely and didnÂt make a bogey today. ItÂs been a while since I had an eagle, so that was a great feeling,Â he said.
Van Tonder, who also started on the 10th, has continued to grow on the tour during his rookie year. His youthful, fearless approach was rewarded with four straight birdies from the 11th to the 14th. He looked set to go extremely low after carding a further three birdies from the first to the third, but a drop at the fourth halted his charge. He came home with five pars, joining Basson in an early share of second.
ÂI like the course and I made a few birdies in a row,Â he said. ÂMost of the people are scared of it and taking irons off the tee. ItÂs a short course Â I take driver and take a ÂTigerÂ line. The modern courses are longer and even when you hit driver youÂve got an eight or seven iron in.Â