Riekus one step closer to third Big Easy win

Riekus Nortje might have made three bogeys in his opening round of the Sunshine Big Easy Tour event at Irene Country Club on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop him from leading with his six-under-par 66.

One of three men to have won twice this year on the Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage, he carded seven birdies and an eagle on his way to a one-stroke lead over Jeff Inglis, Ross Wellington and Thabang Simon.

“It’s a pretty good start,” said Nortje. “It could’ve been a lot better because I missed a couple of short putts and made a few drops coming in but I’ll definitely take it as a start.”

He opened with a birdie on the 10th, but dropped a shot on the 12th, before setting off on a golden run from the 15th to the third, where he picked up seven shot in seven holes, with five birdies and an eagle-three on the second.

Another birdie on five moved him to eight-under for the round, but bogeys on seven and nine pegged him back a little.

“I missed two or three six or seven-footers which should have gone in,” he said, “but because it’s winter, the greens are a little on the bumpy side. Other than that, I think my putter worked really well today.”

Wellington had just a single bogey on his card for his 67, as did Simon, who carded an eagle-three on the ninth.

Inglis, who won last week in the snow-affected Maccauvlei leg of the series, had an altogether more interesting scorecard, turning in level-par 36 through nine, and then making two eagles in three holes on 10 and 12.

He hit a monstrous drive into the greenside bunker on the 392-metre 12th and made his bunker shot for the second eagle, and then three more birdies and two bogeys saw him home in 31.

For Nortje, the search for a third victory will be made a little easier by his victorious experiences on the Tour so far: “Luckily I’ve been in this situation,” he said. “At least I know what to do and what to expect. No one is just going to sit back and relax; they’re all going to go for it so I’ll have to go for it as well.”

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