Rookie Michael holds onto the lead
Anthony Michael’s decision to chose golf ahead of baseball was clearly vindicated in Thursday’s first round of the Dunhill.
Former South African baseball international Anthony Michael wielded his putter like Babe Ruth and holed some incredible putts on his way to the first round lead in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club on Thursday.
Michael hardly hit a fairway on his way to an opening six-under-par 66 for a one-stroke lead over Europeans Sebastian Buhl, Robert Rock and Marius Thorp, and South Africa’s Dawie van der Walt.
But the first-round leader made up for his wayward driving with a putter that couldn’t miss.
He holed a 90-footer for par on the par-three 16th, as well as a 50-foot putt for birdie on the difficult par-four eighth and then a more modest 25-foot putt for birdie on the ninth.
“I think I hit three fairways the whole day. But from the rough to the greens was good, and on the greens was amazing. I think I only made one birdie from the fairway,” said Michael.
Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, the two biggest names in the field, struggled to assert themselves on day one.
Schwartzel worked hard to finish the day at two under, while British Open champion Oosthuizen opened with a round of four-over 76 that featured two double bogeys.
But Michael seemed to relish his own challenge of being under pressure off the tee.
“I play well under pressure and I’ve always enjoyed it,” said the Johannesburg player, who represented South Africa at baseball and initially wanted to pursue a professional career in America before deciding he would rather take up a golf scholarship there.
He’ll certainly have enough pressure to deal with over the next three rounds. Behind him, Rock has enough experience to mount a strong charge, having finished fourth here last year.
Van Der Walt is also keen to bounce back from missing out on his PGA Tour card at Qualifying School last week.
“I had a long flight from America and still feel a bit jetlagged, so I’m very happy to only be one off the pace,” he said.
Keith Horne, currently second on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit and coming off a strong season on the Asian Tour, is well placed at two shots off the lead. And defending champion Pablo Martin opened with a three under 69 that he found most encourging in the circumstances.
Martin had a front nine directly attributable to jetlag, having just flown in from in from the USA, but in spite of everything, he managed to be just three of the pace when he was done, having shot a three under 69
“Not bad after a 14-hour flight from New York,” said Martin. “Maybe I’ll try that again.”
His front nine was lit up like a Christmas tree with orange, red, green and blue lights: The orange for the eagle two on the 319-yard (292-metre) sixth, when his drive pitched on the green, and curved just an inch past the cup to finish a foot away.
The two reds came with birdies on two and four; the bogey green was on the third, and the double-bogey blue was on the ninth, where he hit his second into the water.
“I’m happy,” said Martin. “How can I not be happy after that flight and that score?”
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