New’ Merrick manages his way to 64 in round 1 of SA Open

Merrick Bremner fired a course-record-equalling eight-under-par 64 on Thursday to take the early round one lead in the 102nd South African Open Championship being played at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.

Bremner poured on the pressure from the start, and turned in a brilliant six-under-par 30 to set himself up for his final score which equalled the 2011 mark set by amateur Jacques Kruyswijk, who qualified for the championship in a pre-qualifying round on Tuesday.

“I played fantastically on the first nine,” he said. “I didn’t miss a green, and there was only one chance that I missed that was makeable, and that was on 15. But in theory, I could have shot 28 on the first nine.”

The old Bremner who has won just twice on the Sunshine Tour might have tried too hard to ram home the advantage he sensed was his, but, instead he kept his cool and managed his way around the course and added two more birdies on his homeward nine to finish with a two-stroke edge over Matthew Carvell.

“I started thinking a bit more and playing clever golf, as opposed to using too much aggression, which is what I normally do,” he said. “I wanted to hold my round together and post a decent score, and not come in with five-under. As the round progressed, I started playing a lot better – making sure I hit the fairways and making sure I hit on the right part of the green to have a decent putt at birdie.”

Bremner has been playing well lately, finishing second in the Sunshine Tour’s BMG Classic and thord in the inaugural ISPS Handa South African Match Play Championship.

“It’s got a lot to do with the work I’ve been putting in behind the scenes, not only on the golf course,” he said. “I’ve been working with a sports psychologist, Tim Goodenough. We’ve done a lot of work together over the last month or so, and that’s probably led to my change in thought patterns on the golf course.

“I can see the bigger picture now – it’s not just about brawn; it’s sometimes about the brain as well,” he added.

Not that brawn was absent: he smashed a monster drive out there on the 574-metre (628-yard) 16th. “I got really lucky there,” he grinned. “I think the hole owes me something from last year when I laid up in the water in the third round. I pulled my tee shot there today, and it went about 354 metres into the wind.

“I managed to knock it on the green in two there with a three-iron, as well,” he said.

He made birdie there, and is happily contemplating his second round with that lead over Carvell, Craig Lee of Scotland on five-under, and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel with Darren Fichardt and Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer together on four-under.

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