Kieffer’s strong rookie season continues at Joburg Open

Maximilian Kieffer has gone from strength to strength since earning his European Tour card through the Challenge Tour, and on Thursday shot an eight-under-par 63 to share the round one lead at the €1.3-million Joburg Open.

“When you come from the Challenge Tour everyone says that you have enough to play out here, but you still want to prove it. It’s a new world and you don’t really know what to expect, so I’m happy that it went pretty good so far,” he said.

He’s moved to 47th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai thanks to a great start to the season, and looked set to continue that trend as he joined Richard Sterne at the top of leaderboard after both players made their way around Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club’s West Course.

“That round was great,” said Kieffer. “I’ve been playing well the last few weeks and I just tried to stay positive on the golf course, and luckily today was another good round.”

The Dusseldorf local shares his hometown with Martin Kaymer, who has picked up the Bernhard Langer baton to lead the way for up-and-coming German golfers. The youngster has drawn inspiration from his countryman and feels that the former world number one has paved the way for the next generation.

“He’s a role model,” said Kieffer. “When you look back six years ago winning majors looked really far away. When Martin did it, a guy from Dusseldorf, he really showed what is possible with hard work.”

Sterne, fresh off his second-place finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, once again lit up the scene. Without a hint of the back injury that plagued his golf over the last three years, Sterne ripped up the front nine on the West Course in 30 shots, kept drops off the card around the par-71 course and set the clubhouse lead on eight-under.

“Some days it feels good and everything kind of happens,” he said. “Golf is strange – you’ve got to hit the right kind of shots at the right time. On the West Course you’ve got to put a good score together and I did that today. I’ve got three tough rounds on the East, and hopefully I can play well and give myself a chance on Sunday. That’s the goal.”

Bryce Easton came home one stroke shy of the frontrunners, but took home a million Hilton Hotel honours points for his hole-in-one at the par-three 12th on the East Course.

It was the first ace of his life, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Along with that highlight, Easton carded five birdies on the tougher layout and secured sole third.

“It’s one of those things – you don’t think about it when you’re playing the hole, but when it goes in it takes a couple of seconds to realise that it’s actually disappeared. Awesome feeling to get it on the board, first one,” he said.

He was a further stroke ahead of eight players on six-under-par, including Sunshine Tour rookie MJ Daffue who carded his score on the West Course, and three-time winner on last year’s Sunshine Tour, Trevor Fisher Jnr who made his score on the East.

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