He spent a couple of years trying to hit the cover off the ball from the tee, but Jean-Paul Strydom showed that straighter is more important than longer on Thursday when he carded an opening five-under-par 67 in the Vodacom Origins of Golf event presented by Samsung at St Francis Links.
And even though he made a pair of bogeys on the 10th and 12th after the turn, he found himself in four-way share of the lead with Jean Hugo, Ulrich van den Berg and Alan Michell in the R650,000 54-hole event, a shot clear of another quartet on four-under-par 68.
“Driving has been a bit of a mess the last year,” he said. “I think my driving accuracy is better and I’ve been making some putts lately. My problem was precisely that I wanted to hit it long all the time. I just tried to hit it as hard as I could, but now it’s more about positional play and consistency. So even if it’s not going far, it’s going straight, and you’ve got a second shot.”
He nearly didn’t have a second shot after his tee shot on the 18th came perilously close to the water down the left hand side of the fairway. “I don’t like that hole,” he said. “I aimed it at the hole in the centre of the fairway and I pulled it a bit. But luckily, I hit it hard enough and it carried just two metres over the water, and it came back to just outside the hazard line. My ankles almost got wet, but I could keep my shoes on.”
His approach nearly took out a television cameraman at the back of the 18th green, but he was able to rescue his par after his chip slid down the slope near the hole and left him with a tricky five-footer.
And he also cancelled out the effect of his two bogeys pretty smartly with an eagle on 13. “It was a good drive,” he said. “I’d hit the previous one way right, so I was kind of nervous. But I hit a nice draw and had a five-iron in to about five feet and rolled the putt in.”
Hugo made two eagles in his first six holes to get off to a fast start. “I birdied the second, and chipped in for eagle on three,” he said, “and holed a bunker shot for eagle on six as well.”
Van den Berg made just a single bogey – on the third, after he started his round on the 10th – in his round. “I’m happy with that, especially around this course, where a bad shot will penalise you,” he said.