Oliver Bekker found the Heritage Golf Club course to be similar in some ways to one of his favourite South African courses, and he used that to his advantage while carding a five-under-par 66 on Thursday in round one of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
That was enough to leave him just one stroke adrift of the first round lead, set jointly by Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, Spaniard Carlos Pigem and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang in the inaugural playing of the first tournament sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, The European Tour and the Asian Tour. He shared fourth spot with Australia’s Terry Pilkadaris.
“It kind of feels similar to the Wild Coast Sun course in South Africa, and I enjoy playing there, so it does suit me,” said Bekker. “I think it suits a guy that hits a draw and I hit a fade, so it’s a little tricky for me, but today I managed to keep the fade in check, and I hope I can keep that going.”
And it got off to a good enough start from her 10th tee for Bekker, as he made birdies on 11 and 12. He dropped a shot on 17, but more than made up for that lapse with an eagle on 18. Another drop came after the turn on the second, and he rebounded from that with a string of three successive birdies before closing out with four pars.
“I played really nicely today, and I kept it in play all day long,” he said. “Hit a lot of good shots, good iron shots, and gave myself a lot of opportunities to make putts. The greens are so good that if you hit it on a good line, it’s going to go in.”
Olesen also enjoyed the course during the opening round: “We had perfect conditions on the front nine and I played well on the front nine, then it started getting tricky on the back nine,” said the 25-year-old, who won his second European Tour title in Perth at the end of last season.
There was occasional light drizzle during the first morning, and some heavier showers with stronger breezes in the afternoon. “It rained on and off during the round,” said Bekker of his morning. “A couple of shots today, I thought I’d hit a good shot and it would end up just short of where I thought it would finish.”
Besides that small problem, he was thrilled with getting his round done in the morning. “Definitely got a good draw,” he said. “The only way it could have been better would have been if I’d started on one, because then all the long into-the-wind holes, I’d play before there was any wind. But there was hardly a breath out there for the first nine or 10 holes.”
With the course clearly doing the trick for him, Bekker is looking forward to the second round. “It’s only the first round, and I’ve got an afternoon tee time tomorrow,” he said. “And if the wind picks up, it’s going to be tough out there, so you’re going to have to play well and you’re going to have to keep it in play with every tee shot. Accuracy is key, and if you make a couple of good putts, you can keep the ball rolling.”