Lyle takes windy lead in Zim

Lyle Rowe hails from Port Elizabeth, South Africa’s ‘windy city’, and looked happy in blustery conditions at Royal Harare Golf Club on Thursday as he shot 67, taking the lead at the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open.

“It’s nice to get off to a good start. The course is in great condition, so if you’re on the green you’ve always got a chance to make birdies or eagles,” he said.

And make them he did – Rowe topped off six birdies with an eagle on his way to five-under, and was glad to take a one-stroke lead over Andrew Curlewis in the R1,5-million tournament’s first morning.

“I’m hitting the ball nicely,” said Rowe. “You have to keep playing tournament golf, that’s the secret. It’s good to play well here after last year, where I didn’t have a great tournament here.”

It wasn’t all smiles around Royal Harare, and Rowe dropped a handful of shots at 14, 15 and 17. He showed strong resolve, however, and retook the lead with a superb birdie streak from the third to the sixth.

“I started the round off nicely – hit a couple of good shots to make birdie and an eagle. If you hit it off the line at this golf course it’s tough to get back on track, because of the tees and rough, and I had a couple of unforced errors before the turn.

“But I had another good start on the front nine holes, which was my second nine. I could have been a couple better, but I made some nice putts. Those four birdies were good. From the par-five third I made my first birdie. I had a nice second shot at the fourth and made another birdie. Had a lucky one at the fifth, and then finished the run with a nice chip-and-putt at the par-five sixth,” he said.

Curlewis struggled with the wind, but reached the clubhouse in an impressive 68 strokes, claiming an early hold on second place. “It’s tricky out there. The wind is gusty and you don’t know which direction it’s coming from, and that makes the course tricky to navigate, so four-under we’ll take,” he said.

He finished tied third at the 2010 Zimbabwe Open and likes the venue. He added: “The course suits me. I played here two years ago and finished third. It’s the only time I’ve played here – I like this place and I’m happy to be off to a good start.”

Rowe looked calm in the clubhouse, clearly not intimidated by the scale of the tournament. “It’s all confidence. You feed off the times when you played well in previous events. It’s nice to keep doing well in these big events. You just have to put a score on the board, and in competition is the place to do it.”

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