8th August 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Ritchie takes advantage of Ebotse chip-ins
JC Ritchie carded an eight-under-par 64 on Wednesday to take a three-stroke lead after the first round of the R800,000 Sun Carnival City Challenge being played at Ebotse Links.
He drew well clear of second-placed Louis de Jager thanks to an all-round display, but it was two chip-ins which took his lead to such a comfortable margin.
“I had two chip-ins today,” said Ritchie. “One was a little bit lucky, but the other was well planned. For the rest of the round, everything was pretty on point all day.”
He started his round on the 10th, and dropped a shot on his second of the day, but after that, everything seemed to go well.
“I was really confident coming in here this week,” he said. “I’ve played the course a few times, as my girlfriend lives here, so I’ve got a bit of home advantage. I absolutely rifled the ball today. I hit brilliant iron shots, putted beautifully. I got unlucky once or twice when I got big bounces on the greens. The greens are really starting to firm up. Despite that, I’m really surprised with the score today but really happy with it.”
For a man who hits the ball a long way, and often seems to thrive on throwing it up, Ritchie is surprisingly fond of playing on links courses. “I always tend to play better as soon as I have to hit it a bit softer and drop my ball-flight a little,” he said. “I sometimes hit some brilliant shots in those conditions. With the wind blowing, it’s really suiting my game. I like playing links golf. It makes the course a little easier off the tee. You don’t need to hit drivers everywhere. It’s lots of irons – two-irons, four-irons and just making it run.”
De Jager also likes playing on the links, with two of his big amateur titles coming at Humewood in Port Elizabeth. He was bogey-free though his first 11 holes, picking up four shots via an eagle and two birdies. He made bogey on 12 and then two more birdies on his way in to set himself up for another charge at a title after coming close last week.
But he will have to deal with Ritchie, who is genuinely relishing the thought of playing links golf in the windier conditions that are forecast for the second and third rounds. “I’m looking forward to the wind that is being forecast,” said Ritchie. “On Sunday, we played here in a bit of wind – it must have been a three-club wind – so I think I’m ready for it.
“I’ve played really well lately. I’ve been under par every week, I haven’t missed a cut anytime recently. The game has been close. Driving’s been good one week, putting the next, and irons another week, and it seemed to all come together today.”