Open spot beckons for Justin after sizzling finish

Justin Walters made light work of the back nine on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington to share the lead after round one of the Open International Final Qualifier – Africa event.

After taking eight pars and a solitary eagle on the front nine, Walters dropped back to one-under-par after a bogey on the par-three 12th hole. He then opened up the taps and raced home with four straight birdies from the 13th onward before a magnificent six-iron to 15-feet on the par-five last provided him with another eagle after which he signed off with a seven-under-par 64.

This put him in a share of the lead with Holland’s Floris de Vries and five shots ahead of the rest of the field.

After failing to make the cut in last week’s Joburg Open held on both the East and West courses at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, Walters was still critical about the layout but felt he had the answer to it today.

“It was playing long today,” he said. “If you keep it in the fairway then it’s not too bad but otherwise it’s very long, but I guess that’s its only defence today.”

He also made a change to his game plan from last week by taking driver instead of three-wood off the tee on the 18th and the gamble paid off handsomely.

“Last week I kept playing conservatively and taking three-wood off the tee short of the bunker, but today I was feeling it and I hit a great drive which allowed me to hit a six-iron in to 15 feet and I had a good read from my caddie and it went in. So it was a great way to finish,” he said.

De Vries set the foundations for his great round when he fired five birdies on the first nine. Three more birdies and a lone bogey saw him finish well on a course where he flourished last week at the Joburg Open, finishing tied for 13th.

Martin Maritz and England’s Andrew Marshall were tied for third on two-under par with five more players completing their rounds on one-under par.

This sets up an interesting final 18 holes as the top three players thereafter will earn their entries to the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Kent, England.

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