Van Zyl defies wind to get within 1 of Cape Town Open lead

He stepped off the final green of his last tournament telling his caddie that Cape Town is always good, and Jaco van Zyl braved the strong winds to card an impressive five-under-par 67 in the opening round of the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open.

His performance with just a single bogey on his card left him one stroke off the morning pace set by Mark Williams in the R2-million tournament at Royal Cape Golf Club which marks the return of the Sunshine Tour to the Mother City after an absence of 10 years.

He deposited his drive on the 18th just 50 metres from the pin as he rode the south-easter to make his final birdie of the day. “You’ve got to take what you can downwind, and hold on to whatever you’ve got into the wind,” he laughed.

The single bogey came on the 171-metre par-three eighth. “The wind was hard off the left, and I tried to hold it up against the breeze,” he said, “and I missed the green left. I couldn’t get it up and down, but my short game was really good.

“I made a lot of par-saves in the first nine holes, and I started hitting it nicely on the back nine,” he added.

Having turned at one-under after that bogey spoiled his two birdies, he proceeded to make four birdies on his way in to be easily the best player in the afternoon field as the wind picked up during the day.

“I’ve been playing nicely enough for the past couple of weeks, and to get that score in the wind and with the greens starting to get a little bit bumpy in the afternoon, I’m really happy,” he said.

Williams went out in the morning before the wind really picked up to its afternoon levels, and the man who won the Sunshine Big Easy Tour Final back in September grabbed his opportunity gratefully.

“One thing I did today,” said Williams, “was every time I made a mistake I managed to bounce back with a birdie and that always keeps your round going. It feels like you’re going lower and lower.

“I hit the driver really well, two-iron straight, so I kept the ball in play and that’s the most important thing. The greens are rolling superb and the course is set up nicely, so there are a lot of fair chances. If you don’t hit it great you’re not going to score well,” he said.

With Van Zyl one stroke behind him, a group of five players shared third at three-under-par 69: Toto Thimba, Colin Nel, Alan McLean, Andre Cruse and Darren Fichardt all positioned themselves nicely to take advantage of the slightly gentler winds forecast for the second round.

For Van Zyl, who had a three-month injury break in the middle of the year, it’s all about taking advantage of opportunities the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open offers as a new event: “The Sunshine Tour has expanded nicely. We’ve also got the Chase to the Investec Cup now, so there’s a lot to play for on one of the strongest tours in the world,” he said.

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