He would have settled for anything under par on Thursday in the opening round of the R4.5-million Dimension Data Pro-Am, but Justin Harding was thrilled with his opening six-under-par 66 on the Montagu course at Fancourt.
That gave him a share of the three-way lead with Danie van Tonder and George Coetzee, two strokes ahead of their nearest challengers, a group of seven players on four-under-par – and only two of those scores came from courses other than Outeniqua. Wallie Coetsee carded his on the par-73 The Links at Fancourt, and Tjaart van der Walt signed for 68 on Montagu.
The players play a round on each of the three Fancourt courses ahead of a cut on Saturday to the top 65 players and ties, and the final round will be played on Montagu.
“I’m super-pleased,” said Harding after his Montagu effort. “I managed to roll it pretty well on the greens and keep the ball in play. Montagu can be just as tough as The Links. You’ve got to hit a lot of good shots. I hit it long off the tee which was nice. I put it in play so I could attack a few flags.”
However, putting was probably the most important component of his success. “I read the greens well and I had good speed, so I managed to keep the momentum going in my round. I had only 25 putts, so that helped,” he said.
It was a pleasing start to the 2015 Sunshine Tour season for the man who has won three times on the tour – and he had his best season on the tour in 2014, although he didn’t win. Coming 20th on the Order of Merit and winning over R1.2-million made that palatable.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “We’ve had six weeks off and I didn’t quite know where my game was at. But I’m obviously happy with it and I hope it continues.”
Coetzee was pleased with the way he performed after spending some time on his swing. “I’ve been working on a few things, and they’re starting to make sense and come together,” he said. “I’m starting to play much better. It’s a couple of little technical things that make my swing a little simpler, and I want to be able to go out there and not think about too many things.”
He started badly, bogeying the first, but he pulled it together in style with seven birdies, including four in a row around the turn.
Van Tonder was also pleased with his round, which also included just a single bogey. “It’s the first time I’ve gone low on Outeniqua,” he said. “I think my best before today was maybe two-under, and I’m pleased that I’ve got 2015 off to such a good start.”
The group on four-under included two former champions in Hennie Otto and Oliver Bekker, while defending champion Tano Goya of Argentina opened his title defence with a three-under-par 69 on Outeniqua.