Nic relishes return to the spotlight

2015 Joburg Open: Day 1The scores were low throughout the first round of the Joburg Open, but none were as good as Nic Henning’s course-record-equalling 62 on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s West Course.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “For each shot you stand over the ball and decide to hit that shot as best as you can. That worked today and hopefully I can carry it forward.”

It has been five years since Henning produced a top-10 result and he’s been a true champion of the grind. On Thursday that was not case, however, and the four-time Sunshine Tour winner went nine shots better than par for a one-shot lead at the Joburg Open.

“It’s been a long time since I shot 62,” he said. “Over the last few years my scores have been really terrible and it’s nice to have a good round under the belt to prove to myself that I can still play well.”

Golfers like Darren Clarke, who is playing in the Joburg Open this week, have first-hand experience in making a comeback and he would sympathize with the 45-year-old’s desire to be in contention once again. Clarke, the 2016 Ryder Cup captain of Europe, once suffered a playoff defeat at the hands of Henning at the 1999 Vodacom Players Championship at Royal Cape Golf Club.

The beauty of the Joburg Open is that 210 players have a shot at glory. On Thursday Henning took advantage of that chance.

“It’s a lot easier going into tomorrow’s round than it would be if I shot 72. I’ll try to hit fairways and put myself in a good position. It’s about staying in the moment and taking every shot as it is,” he said.

Henning holed out from the third fairway for eagle and made further twos at the fifth, eighth and 16th. It was pin point accuracy that won the day for the Knysna local, who matched the course record of 62, which was set by Desvonde Botes in 2007.

Hot on his heels were Titch Moore, Thomas Pieters and Tjaart van der Walt, all of whom carded eight-under-par 63 on the West Course.

The East Course is widely regarded as the tougher track. Wallie Coetsee and England’s Sam Hutsby led the way there with rounds of six-under-par 66.

“I like difficult courses,” said Coetsee. “I think I concentrate harder on tougher holes, so I need to focus when it gets to the easier ones. We’ll see what comes; one day at a time.”

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