Despite a few shaky putts to start with, Anthony Michael carded a six-under-par 66 on Wednesday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Parys Golf and Country Estate.
He headed qualifier Attie Schwartzel by one stroke, with Brandon Pieters, Doug McGuigan and Chris Swanepoel in third at four-under-par. A group of five players consisting of Thabang Simon, Daniel Greene, Dean Burmester, PH McIntyre and Desvonde Botes shared sixth at three-under.
“There were a couple of six- to eight-footers to start,” he said, “but I made all of them to get the round off to a solid start. I got some confidence going and played the back nine really well.”
While he dropped a shot on the 407-metre par-four 15th, he made five birdies from 11 to 18, and, together with the two in his opening nine, they were enough to keep him ahead of Schwartzel who had started fast with four birdies in his opening nine.
“Those early putts are make-or-break,” said Michael. “If you make them, you get off to a good start, and if you miss them you’re on the back foot. I felt really confident after I made them.”
Michael has had a quiet year on the Sunshine Tour, with just a single top-10 finish to his credit – a share of fourth in the Zambia Sugar Open – and that is in stark contrast to his 2010 rookie year when he finished 10th on the Order of Merit with four top 10s, including a share of second in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“For the last two months, I’ve been playing really consistently,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to shave a few shots off every nine holes – clearly it worked today.”
It resulted in only his second round in the 60s since Zambia, and puts him in a position to challenge for a maiden victory in the 54-hole tournament. “Even though it’s only the first round, it’s nice to be up on top of the leaderboard,” he said.
A measure of how good his 66 was on a windy day and on a course where the fairways are showing plenty of signs of winter wear was that there were only 10 rounds in the 60s. “I said to myself if I could get four- or five-under, I’d be really happy – and here I am six-under after the first round,” he said.
Schwartzel has had three tournaments recently where just one of the three rounds has let him down: “I’m playing really well,” he said. “I’m a little bit inconsistent. I’m putting two good rounds on the board, and then one bad round. So I’m going to try and put three good rounds together this week.”