Hennie Otto flew out of Europe on the back of a run of three good finishes and into Johannesburg where he immediately challenged for the lead in Friday’s first round of the BMG Classic at Glendower Golf Club.
Otto opened with a seven-under-par 65 to share the lead with Ulrich van den Berg, one stroke clear of Johan du Buisson and two clear of a group of eight players.
The round seemed destined to reach a ceiling at five under, with players lining up on that total, including the in-form Lyle Rowe, before both Otto and Van Den Berg pulled clear late in the afternoon.
Otto’s round included a back nine of 30 where he made eagle on the par-five 13th and 15th holes, with a birdie on 14.
On 13 he hit a driver and then a three iron to six feet and made the putt, and then on 15 he hit a driver and eight iron to inside four feet and holed the putt.
“I hit them really close, and it’s nice to make those putts for a change. The golf course is running quite a bit and we’re off the front tees. I think they’re saving it a bit for the SA Open, so it’s playing shorter than normal.”
Alongside him, Van Den Berg also came home strong in 31 to share the lead. “I made very few mistakes out there. I kept three holes going where I could’ve made bogeys and instead made pars, so that was a big momentum shift for my day. But there’s still a long way to go and I won’t get ahead of myself. It’s just nice to get off to a good start.”
Otto flew into Johannesburg at the end of a hectic bit of travelling in which he finished tied eighth in the Italian Open, tied 12th in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, and then tied sixth in the Portugal Masters.
“I’m a bit tired. But it’s nice to be home and play with a few friends, and catch up.”
His form in those three events is indicative of the hard work he’s put in to wipe the slate on a tough last four months.
“It’s been coming and I’ve been working hard. Those last four months were pretty bad for me but I managed to pull through.”