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Sterne, Kieffer share Joburg lead
Last updated: 7th February 2013
Richard Sterne and Max Kieffer both carded eight-under-par 63s to share the first-round lead at the Joburg Open.
Sterne, who also led after the first round of last week's Dubai Desert Classic, opening with a 62 that time, described his performance as "just doing the same thing - sometimes a little better".
Both Sterne and Kieffer played the more forgiving par-71 West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Thursday, with Bryce Easton's seven-under-par 65 - including a hole-in-one - on the tougher par-72 East Course placing him one back.
Defending champion Branden Grace and two-time winner Charl Schwartzel were also on the East Course on day one, but struggled to find the consistency they are striving for.
Schwartzel opened with a four-under 68, while Grace finished with a level-par 72.
Sterne carried the momentum of his performance in Dubai, where he finished second, onto a West Course where he opened with three straight birdies. He went on to chip in for an eagle on the ninth and finish only one worse than the lowest first 18-hole score on the West in the history of this tournament.
"You feel you need to put a good score together on the West Course and I did that. Now I've got three tough rounds on the East and hopefully I can give myself a chance on Sunday," he said.
"I'm putting better and have put a lot more effort into this part of my game. To win tournaments you have to putt well."
He's also cut down on the mistakes in his round. "There are two or three crucial shots in a round where you have to hit the right shots, and if you do then you generally have a good round. I was making a lot of silly errors, but now I'm making a birdie or two at the end of the round, and that can be a three or four-shot swing."
Kieffer, a graduate of the Challenge Tour and who hails from Düsseldorf, the same home city as Martin Kaymer, was simply happy to prove his worth on a bigger stage.
"I've been playing well and am just trying to stay positive on the golf course. When you come from the Challenge Tour everybody says you are good enough for the European Tour. But you still want to prove your worth out here."
Easton is aiming for something similar. Following his two victories on the Sunshine Tour in 2012, he's now hoping to make the step up and contend in the European Tour events.
"I'd like to play and compete consistently in these bigger events. Last year I didn't do that like I expected to. But it was good for me to miss a few cuts and get back to the drawing board."
His ace on the par-three 12th certainly sweetened his day. "It the first hole-in-one of my life. When it goes in, it takes a couple of seconds to realise it's disappeared. It's an awesome feeling to get on the board with my first ace."
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