“I thought I had a good draw playing links first, but when we arrived there was lots of rain and I think we came off three times, so it was pretty tricky to stay in rhythm. I hit the ball good and didn’t miss a fairway, and I putted pretty good for five birdies, no bogeys,” he said.
The Ballito resident has toured since 1997 and his experience helped him to keep focused as heavy rains caused suspensions in play throughout the round. He eventually signed in at five-under-par and joined an early share of the lead before bad light stopped play at 18h47.
“In conditions like this it’s not about how far you hit ball, it’s about keeping it in play and I think I’ve learned that over the years. You just keep it steady and try to shoot a good score in these conditions,” he said.
The R3,75-million tournament has a 54-hole cut and the competitors play one round at each of the Montagu, Outeniqua and Links courses at Fancourt before a final round at Montagu.
Englishman Richard Finch set out his campaign with an opening 67 at the Outeniqua course, which secured his share of the lead alongside Morten Madsen, the reigning South African Open Championship winner.
The Links is a tough track and on Thursday fewer than 20 players shot par or better before play was called off. Abery’s 68 tells the story of how accurate his iron play was around the coastal setup.
“I was hitting my irons good, so I was laying up into areas that I was happy with. The greens are perfect, so you’re going to make a couple of putts if you’re close enough,” he said.
Defending champion Jaco van Zyl was in fine form during the opening round and carded 67 at Outeniqua. He was joined on five-under in the clubhouse by James Kingston, which completed the leading quintet of players.
“Five-under is a good start,” said van Zyl and I’ve got a little speed bump to get over at the links tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to the next few rounds after today,” he said.
Thomas Aiken, winner of last week’s Africa Open, got off to a solid start as he made four birdies at Outeniqua to tie for ninth.
Abery has the tough Links course behind him and will tee up at Montagu tomorrow with the momentum rolling.
“I finished really well in the co-sanctioned events at the end of last year, but in the last two events before this one I missed the cut. I’m hungry to get going again.
“There’s a long way to go. I’ve been playing well for the last couple of weeks and just haven’t been putting well. Today the putts seemed to go in, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the week,” he said.