By Grant Winter
Trees line the fairway and a stream hard on the left runs alongside the entire length of the hole, widening out into a small dam right next to the green. It’s reachable in two big shots for the professionals playing in the BMW South African Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, but that little stretch of water just a few paces away from the putting surface makes for a treacherous approach, especially with a fairway wood or long-iron in hand. One slight mis-hit and you’re in the dreaded drink.
In yesterday’s first round there was an additional problem, as the players were hitting into quite a strong breeze by the time the threeball consisting of Jaco van Zyl, Branden Grace and Germany’s Marcel Siem arrived on the tee.
Van Zyl hit a cracker up the middle, Siem pulled his tee-shot left into the trees and then Grace outdid his playing partners by bombing a 300-metre drive 20 metres past Van Zyl.
Siem had to chip back onto the fairway en route to a par-5, while Van Zyl hit an exquisite three-wood to about 12 feet past the pin, setting up an eagle putt.
“Seeing Jaco’s great shot kind of got me going,” Grace would confess after the round, with a mischievous hint of an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better chuckle.
“I had 203 metres to the pin so I took a four-iron and aimed a low stinger a little right because when the ball hits the green it comes a little from the right.”
The execution was just perfect, precisely as the world’s 14th ranked golfer had planned, with the sweetly-struck ball finding the putting surface before gently rolling up to less than two feet from the cup. The shot of the day.
“I was bit rusty out there today after the Christmas break and hit some indifferent shots,” Grace admitted. “But that shot was the exception, one I won’t forget in a hurry.”
Van Zyl, to his credit, would roll in his eagle putt on his way to the clubhouse lead on seven-under-par 65 while Grace tapped in his tiddler for his three on his way to a 69 which leaves him on the front page of the leaderboard in the chase for the R2,4-million first place cheque.
“Yeah, I really enjoyed that little four-iron,” said Grace, “But all credit to Jaco who played some A-class golf out there.”