Maritz plays round of his life to lead Joburg Open

Martin Maritz said he has never played a better round of golf in his life after he posted a superb nine-under-par 62 to share the first round lead of the Joburg Open.

His record-breaking 62 on the 6,940-metre (7,592-yard) Royal Johannesburg and Kensington East Course won’t be recognised because there was placing on the soaked track. Darren Fichardt’s 2006 mark of 63 set in the Open Championship International Final Qualifier thus stands.

“It was a magical round for me today and I am just over the moon,” he said.

His mark was matched on the 6,618-metre (7,237-yard) West Course by Tyrone Mordt. The nephew of legendary Springbok rugby winger Ray Mordt equalled the 2006 mark of Desvonde Botes, set in the same tournament as Fichardt’s score. It, too, won’t be recognised because of placing.

Maritz’s round was flawless, and had an emphatic conclusion as he birdied five of his last six holes – on the course widely recognised as the more difficult of the two over which the players for the first two days ahead of the cut.

The final two rounds of the €1.3-million tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour will be played over the East Course.

And after three years spent as a club professional at two courses in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which the lanky Pretoria-born Maritz now calls home with wife Ashley and their two children, the round might have kick-started a return to the levels he reached when he finished fourth in the 2001-2002 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit – a season which included second-place finishes in the Vodacom Players Championship and the Dunhill Championship.

His round got underway in the best possible way as he made birdies on the first and the second, and he made two more on his way to turning in four-under 32.

His final flourish meant he covered the homeward nine in five-under 30.

“A lot of the birdies I made today were either two-putts or I had hit them within a few inches or feet,” he said.

He also closed with a bunker shot from the greenside on 18 to within six feet to set up birdie there, and that gave him some satisfaction.

“I’ve been working very hard on my short game,” he said. “It’s not my strong point, but to get it that close and to make the putt – I feel good about that, definitely.”

Mordt also made a birdie-birdie start, and he turned in five-under 31, and four more on the West Course’s second nine gave him the score which bettered Branden Grace’s early morning eight-under-par target.

He had a purple patch with four birdies in a row from 12 to 15. “My putter got hot on the back nine,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily hit it that well, but I just holed four long putts in a row, and that helped me out a lot.”

Maritz’s was not the only eye-popping round on the East Course: Thomas Aiken had a putt to go nine-under on the 17th, with the imminently birdie-able 18th looming.

He missed the five-footer on 17, and then he pulled his tee-shot on 18 into the right fairway bunker. His recovery flew into the rough on the left behind some trees, and he took two more shots to get it on the green before two-putting for his only bogey of the day.

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel scrambled his way around to a two-under-par 69.

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