Another Dane made his way to the top of a South African golf leaderboard on Thursday as Lucas Bjerregaard fired a seven-under-par 65 to lead the first round of the R1-million Investec Cup.
He carded eight birdies and a lone bogey around Millvale Private Retreat to take a two-stroke lead over Jacques Blaauw, with Joburg Open champion George Coetzee and Jbe’ Kruger a further shot back on four-under-par 68.
“I first came to South Africa in October last year, and I’m loving it,” said Bjerregaard, who is one of two Danes in the field – the other is South African Open champion Morten Orum Madsen. And South Africa crowned another Danish champion when Thomas Bjorn won the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Bjerregaard is one of six European Tour players who have made into the Investec Cup, which is the culmination of a year-long quest for points in all the regular-season Sunshine Tour events in the Chase to the Investec Cup, beginning with the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open last April and ending at the Tshwane Open.
He started his round on the back nine at Millvale, and was quickly into his stride with consecutive birdies at 11, 12 and 14. One more at 16 came before his only dropped shot of the day. And he picked up four more birdies on his way in.
“I got away with a couple of poor tee shots today, but I played really well and made a couple of good putts,” he said. “I hit a couple of really good irons today, and a got a couple of good par putts to keep the round going.
“We got perfect conditions today. I was out first and the greens were so pure. They’re some of the best greens I’ve ever played on. So it really set up to make a couple of putts. And with no wind, except a little bit of a breeze swirling in the trees towards the end, it was set up for a perfect day,” he added.
Blaauw had an extraordinary round, with just 10 putts on the front nine – his back nine after he started his round on the 10th and finished on five-under-par 67. “I sank a really long one on 10,” he said, “but it was from off the green, so I suppose it doesn't count as a putt. But that was about a 25-footer. The rest of the time, it was really good scrambling.”
Bjerregaard has put himself in a good position as the elite 30-man field goes in chase of the lion’s share of the R10-million Bonus Pool. With R3.5-million for the winner, he’s in a good spot right now, as the leading points scorer going into this tournament, Ross Fisher, opened with a five-over-par 77.
Hennie Otto was in second in the Chase to the Investec Cup after the Tshwane Open and he carded at 73. Thomas Aiken was third and he signed for a 74, while Madsen was fourth and, like Aiken, was two-over in the opening round.
More of the same for Bjerregaard in the second round at Millvale and the final two at the Lost City will put an exclamation point to a South African season which started with 66th in the South African Open Championship, and has been on an upward curve ever since until his share of second in the Dimension Data Pro-Am.