Michael makes the most of calm conditions

Michael du Toit wasted no time in capitalising on calm conditions in East London and shot 66 for round one of the €1-million Africa Open and took an 18-hole share of fourth alongside Welshman Philip Price.

The 42-year-old made his way around East London Golf Club without a dropped shot and closed the day at seven-under-par, two strokes shy of leader Thomas Aiken’s impeccable 64.

“It’s a great feeling to start this way. I’m not a long hitter and while the wind is down I’m taking my chance with both hands and enjoying the moment,” said Du Toit.

The Africa Open marks the start of the both the 2012 Sunshine Tour and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, and for Du Toit it was also a fresh start – a chance he did not squander. “The putter has been behaving and I’ve got the ball rolling well – that’s key on these greens. There are a lot of good players out there, and it was good to start the season right up there,” he added.

The Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club professional, who started on the back stretch, took some time to get going, but found his groove with a birdie at the par-five 15th.

He made a pair of birdies at the 17th and 18th before making his way through the front stretch in 33, carding birdies at the first, third, sixth and eighth before signing for 66.

Retief Goosen, whose first tee-shot was the curtain-raiser for the 2012 season, carded an unparalleled five-birdie run from the 11th to the 15th. The Goose shot eight-under for the opening round and shared second alongside Jaco Ahlers.

It would be Aiken who led the first round after the 28-year-old carded 64, adding eagles at the 11th and third to his tally of five birdies. He returned from a two-week break, yet showed no signs of cobwebs and breezed through around the 6,120-metre course with ease. “I wasn’t really expecting that after two weeks without touching a club. It was a great morning this morning – early start, and the scoring conditions were good. It was out there for the taking and luckily I hit some really good shots and made putts,” he said.

Du Toit was not shy to grab the opportunity presented by calm conditions, and his confident grasp on the round was the way every player wanted to start the season. “I’ve never played this course when the wind has been this quiet. I think the weather has been good throughout the day and I took advantage of that. And it’s about time I started playing some decent golf,” he said.

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