20th July 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Van Rooyen, Lombard lead SA challenge at The Open
From The European Tour
South African pair Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard made light of their relative lack of major experience to sit in the upper echelons of the leaderboard during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Van Rooyen produced a brilliant 67 in his first-ever Major Championship round, which was matched by former Amateur Championship runner-up Lombard, who is making his second Open appearance.
Van Rooyen made the most of the favourable conditions on Thursday morning, notching five birdies in his first 15 holes to jump to the top of the leaderboard before a disappointing bogey at the last saw him finish the day on four under par – one behind clubhouse leader Kevin Kisner.
The 28 year old is no stranger to links golf having held a commanding four-shot lead heading into the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation earlier in the month.
He went on to finish in a tie for fourth but said that experience taught him a lot.
He said: “I didn’t pull it off on the final day. I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous and that’s completely normal, and I’ll learn how to deal with that.
“I’ll take that experience into tournaments like this.
“The course was playing as easy as it was going to play this whole week this morning – no wind at all.
“I think it’s going to pick up from now onwards. So you had to go out and take advantage of it.”
Lombard, twice a runner-up on the European Tour, carded five birdies with his only dropped shot coming at the tenth and is also taking confidence from a top-ten finish in Ireland.
“I think it’s playing fair,” he said. “Even if you stray, you’ve got a chance at making par. Have a chance to avoid the bunkers, which I did today.
“You’ve got a chance to control your ball out there, and I think I did pretty well.
“It’s been a long road to get here. I worked really hard for six months, played sub-par golf. But really quite a bit of confidence going off the Irish Open, and I’m just in a good space of mind and ready for the weekend.
“Us South Africans, we feed off each other’s confidence. We’re all good friends. It’s nice seeing each other play well. Hopefully, we can motivate each other to get the win.”