Garth Mulroy returned to a course on which he played many times as an amateur, and carded a three-under-par 67 on Thursday in the opening round of the R1.2-million Nashua Masters at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club.
But his fine showing on a day when a blustery northeaster did its job in defending the otherwise defenceless 5,807-metre par-70 course was trumped by another Umkomaas boy as Darryn Lloyd rode an extraordinary piece of luck on the 505-metre seventh to card an albatross-two and skip away to the lead at six-under-par.
And Mulroy has a lot on his mind on his return to South Africa from the United States after earning his 2012 PGA Tour card by finishing inside the top 25 of the 2911 Nationwide Tour: He needs three more tournaments to qualify for inclusion in the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and. Should he get those under his belt, he has a very good chance of winning it.
But his Sunshine Tour eligibility has lapsed, and he will need to either pre-qualify for the season-ending Alfred Dunhill Championship and the SA Open Championship, or get sponsorÂs invitations into the events.
In the meantime, there is the small matter of a tournament to attempt to win, and he put himself on the right track with a round that included just two bogeys on a day where just about everyone else struggled even more.
ÂI chipped in on my first hole of the day Â the 10th,Â he said, Âwhich was a good start, but then I made bogey on 17.Â
He went birdie-bogey around the turn, but then made three more bogeys for a satisfactory return to his home country. ÂThe greens were a little firmer than I remember, and the wind certainly made things difficult,Â he said.
But when the wind was from behind, it was a wonderful thing, as Lloyd discovered on the seventh, where he smoked a 360-metre drive down the fairway, and then lofted a sand wedge for the wind to carry it the remaining 145 metres into the hole.
ÂThat albatross was really unexpected; I was planning to make it onto the green and two-putt for a good four, but when I got onto the green I saw that it was in the hole,Â said Lloyd.
The albatross, together with three bogeys and six birdies, gave him his lead, while five players shared third at two-under 68: Stuart Clark, Jean Hugo, Tyrone Mordt, Oliver Bekker and Shaun Norris.
Of those, Hugo has won three tournaments this year, and can take any tournament he chooses by the throat should the scores start running for him.
And Bekker took his maiden title in the Northern Cape Classic in September.
Defending champion Warren Abery found himself at two-over, eight shots off the lead. But thatÂs not a long way with the weather forecast suggesting winds throughout the tournament.