Great shot gives Erlandsson the lead
One of the best shots of his life has helped Martin Erlandsson take a one-stroke lead at the South African Open.
One of the best shots of his life helped Swede Martin Erlandsson fire an eight-under-par 64 and take a one-stroke lead on the opening day of the South African Open.
In addition to six birdies, Erlandsson, seeking his first European Tour win in more than 170 attempts, hit a three-wood to within three feet of the pin on the 530-yard fifth at Pearl Valley.
The 35-year-old from Malmo declared afterwards that it was one of those strokes where you just say “Wow, what happened?”
“I really let go on my back nine and just played freely,” he said. “The swing was a bit off on the range, so I tried to play safe at the start of my round. Then I noticed it was feeling better. I made a few birdies and then just let go on the back nine.”
Van Der Walt was the first to respond with a round of three birdies and two eagles. His second eagle on the tenth came after his drive finished in a bunker, from where he hit a wedge that pitched five feet behind the hole and then spun back in.
“I’m really happy with where I am right now and the way I’m playing,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to doing well and seeing if I can better my best finish in a co-sanctioned tournament, which is ninth. Obviously I also want to win. You can’t win it on the first day, but a good run like this always helps.”
Spaniard Pablo Martin, the winner of last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, later joined Van Der Walt on seven under with a round highlighted by two birdies and an eagle in his final three holes.
“That was a really good way to finish the day. I was a bit shaky in the middle of the round, but I chipped in for birdie on the par-five 13th and that broke the bad momentum I had.”
In August, Erlandsson looked as if he might grab his maiden victory at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
Ten birdies in a closing 62 swept him from six behind to two in front, but compatriot Peter Hedblom was still out on the course and hit back to win by one.
Only a week ago Erlandsson began the new Tour season by playing his first nine holes at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in a nightmare 46, but this time he came home in a superb 30.
Denmark’s Anders Hansen, third at the weekend and clear leader of the Sunshine Tour money list with only this week to go, had an eagle and seven birdies, but also three bogeys for a 66 and fourth place.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay had a chance to outshine all of them when he covered the back nine first in a six-birdie 30, but in the end he had to settle for a 67.
Italian Edoardo Molinari, South African Charl Schwartzel and England’s Ross McGowan are all trying to climb into the world’s top 50 just in time to earn a place in the Masters at Augusta in April.
World Cup winner Molinari needs a top-eight finish and ended the day on four under, but the other two have to be first or second and crashed to five-over-par 77s.
McGowan, returning to action a month after being runner-up to Lee Westwood at the Dubai World Championship, was actually three under after six, but then blew his round with two triple bogeys and a double bogey.
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