Ross leads after qualifying for Swazi Open

Ross Wellington played a 17-point first round on Wednesday to lead the Investec Royal Swazi Open, and he did it a day after securing his place at the tournament by winning the pre-qualifier.


“Going into a tournament and playing five stressful rounds instead of getting some practice rounds and easing into it can be tough, but you can’t harp on about it. To start well and settle down during the first round is important. I feel like everything is going well and 17 points is a very nice start,” he said.


Wellington took full advantage of the modified stableford scoring system employed at this week’s R1-million tournament and held a three-point lead over James Kingston, Le Roux Ferreira and Doug McGuigan at the end of day one.


“I hit some great shots out there and I managed to chip in twice today, so I’m very happy,” said Wellington. “In this format the difference between a birdie and an eagle is quite vast, so making two eagles today was key. That’s why I’ve managed to reach the top of the leaderboard.”


The tournament’s scoring system awards eight points for an albatross, five for an eagle and two for a birdie. One point is deducted for a bogey and three are deducted for a double-bogey or worse, while par is worth zero points.


The 32-year-old set off looking to score, but the round was quiet until he made birdie at the fifth, which opened the floodgates. Wellington went off the charts from there onwards and made birdies at the sixth and eighth, along with an eagle at the seventh, to turn with 10 points on the board.


The Pecanwood golfer went into the back stretch with confidence and made an eagle two at the par-four 12th hole to keep the fire going. He made a final birdie at the 15th for another two points and left the course with a comfortable three-point lead.


“Sometimes during the first couple of holes you have expectations or you try to be a bit conservative. I got on a bit of a roll from the fifth and that got me into a good position to go into the back nine and play the kind of golf that I enjoy,” he said.


Kingston is the defending champion and his opening 14-point haul is a sure sign that he’ll contend again this year. Ferreira was the second man into the clubhouse on 14 points, while McGuigan had an afternoon tee-off time and moved into a share of second place close to the end of the round.


The day belonged to Wellington, however, and he was happy at the top.


“It’s such a fun event and Investec put on a fantastic show for us. We’ve been down to Royal Swazi Sun for many years and the tournament is run really well, so all of us professionals enjoy this one. I think all of that added up and I managed to play some nice golf today,” he said.


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