Dutchman Tim Sluiter carded a superb 66 to lead the first round of The Open ChampionshipÂs International Final Qualifying Africa leg at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old closed the first day at six-under-par and took a two-stroke lead as 51 players began the 36-hole battle for three coveted places at the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St AnneÂs.
ÂI played solidly and gave myself a lot of chances. If I keep the same approach tomorrow then I will be playing in The Open, which is really something,Â said Sluiter.
He was quick out the gates and penciled in birdies at the first and second, kick starting his campaign to play in golfÂs oldest major. After a run of four pars he birdied the seventh and went on to turn at three-under.
ÂI didnÂt play attacking golf because of the wind, which forces you to stay out of trouble around this course. Part of the trick is to give yourself chances, and I did that today. My putting was on form and I chipped in at the seventh, so it was a solid round of golf,Â he said.
He made a further pair of birdies at the 13th and 14th before closing out with a final birdie at the par-five 18th, which secured his one-stroke lead ahead of the final 18 and took him one step closer to the contest for golfÂs most coveted trophy, the Claret Jug.
ÂI feel comfortable on this course and my game is good. Hopefully tomorrow will be another good round and it will end sweetly,Â said Sluiter.
Spaniard Jordi Garcia made a lone drop at the 15th, but peppered his round with six birdies to secure sole possession of second.
ÂI played really well today and my putting was good, which helped me enjoy the day. Although it wasnÂt my focus at the beginning of the season, to play in The Open is something special to me,Â he said.
The 26-year-old made two birdies before the turn, but really put his foot down on the back stretch and carded birdies at the 10th, 12th, 14th and 17th before closing the day at five-under.
On Sunday Garcia, who is yet to play in The Open, was excited about the opportunity to make it to Royal Lytham & St AnneÂs, and added: ÂIt will be a dream to play in the The Open. ItÂs such a big tournament that I donÂt really have words to describe what it will mean.Â
Finishing at four-under was BrazilÂs top-ranked player, Adilson Da Silva, who shot a solid 68 around the windy East Course. ÂI had a good start and it was a good day, but the wind was swirling today, which made it tricky to find the right club.
ÂTomorrow I will aim for a good score and stick with it. I have been lucky enough to play The Open twice before, and what an experience it is! Any time you can make it (to The Open) is really great.Â
On Saturday, Canadian Andrew Parr shot 64 on the East Course in the Joburg Open. He carried that confidence to the IFQ and shot 69 on Wednesday, closing the first round in fourth place. ÂI want to be out there and IÂm having a great time. IÂm feeling confident on this course and tomorrow IÂm going to repeat my performance and hopefully make The Open,Â he said.