It took 11 years for Marco Crespi to reach the European Tour and he wasn’t about to let the opportunity go to waste at the South African Open Championship on Thursday, where he shot 65 for a share of second.
“I have tried Q-School a lot… I have a hard head. My game has improved a lot over the last two years. I don’t know if I’m ready to win on the European Tour, but this round sure helps me to try,” he said.
The 35-year-old from Lissone, Italy earned full European Tour status with a third-place finish at Final Stage Qualifying one week ago and headed straight for Glendower Golf Club, eager to start the 2014 Race to Dubai on a high note.
He did exactly that on Thursday, topping six birdies with an eagle two at the seventh hole for a seven-under-par total and a share of second, one shot behind leader Matthew Nixon.
“I just had the perfect yardage for my full pitching wedge,” the Italian said. “My caddie told me to play for the pin, because the wind was straight ahead. I hit a good shot and saw that it was very straight – if it goes in you are lucky. But it was a great shot. It was a full pitching wedge and I had 136 metres to the pin.”
It was uncharacteristically cold and windy during the first round at the world’s second-oldest national open, but Crespi kept ahead of the weather through accuracy. He started on the 10th and soon began a four-birdie streak that ran from the 12th to the 15th.
His second loop was quiet until the par-four seventh, where he holed out from the fairway for an eagle two. He followed the two-shot gain at the seventh with a final birdie at the eighth and joined European Tour winner Jbe' Kruger in a share of second on seven-under.
After two vacations to South Africa, Crespi was keen to contest the national open.
“I like the golf courses, the weather, and the people in South Africa,” he said. “It’s a great place and the food is not too bad. I am Italian, so nothing is better than that, but the food here is very good!
“Out here I focus on my own game on the course. I am not a long hitter, so I cannot see the other guys that go so far. My game is another one, so I play my way and today that worked for me.”