Davidse takes charge
The 28-year-old fell ill before the event and was hospitalised for four days. He showed no signs of sickness when he fired nine birdies against one bogey at the Randpark Golf Club, par-71 Bushwillow course.
He held a one-shot lead over South Africa’s Jared Harvey, Erik van Rooyen, Ockie Strydom, England’s Matthew Baldwin, James Morrison and Sebastian Heisele of Germany, who all played at Bushwillow.
Asian Tour member Scott Barr of Australia was a further shot back in tied eighth place at the event which is the first tri-sanctioned tournament by the Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour and European Tour in South Africa.
Phachara Khongwatmai of Thailand, Shubhankar Sharma of India, Masahiro Kawamura of Japan and Jinho Choi of Korea, who played at the par-72 Firestone, were the best placed Asians in 38th place on matching 69s.
Gavin Green of Malaysia, the Order of Merit leader, returned with a 70 to lie in tied 60th place in the 240-man field.
Searching for a first career first win, Davidse turned in 32 before firing five birdies on his homeward nine to hold a slight edge over the chasing pack at the R16.5 million (approximately US$1.2 million) event.
Did you know?
- Davidse is on track to better his best result at the Joburg Open earlier this year where he finished tied seventh, albeit on a different golf course.
- He has not won on the Sunshine Tour but enjoyed a solid 2017 season where he finished inside the top-five thrice and enjoyed a runner-up result in August.
- Davidse was among the leading seven players in round one who all played at the shorter Bushwillow course.
- He took advantage of his sharp-shooting game where he missed only two greens in regulation while totalling 26 putts.
- Davidse is now in the running to become the ninth South African to win the Joburg Open.
- He can also qualify for The Open as the Joburg Open is part of the Qualifying Series which offers three spots to the leading players who are not already exempt to The Open in 2018.
- Green of Malaysia is fighting to make the cut at the Joburg Open. He is currently on the bubble and needs to make the weekend rounds to stand a chance of winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit title on Sunday.
- Barr of Australia is also on a mission this week to save his Tour card for next year. He is currently ranked 60th on the Order of Merit and will need to finish inside the top-61 on the final ranking. The Joburg Open is the penultimate event on the 2017 Asian Tour Schedule.
- Darren Fichardt of South Africa opened his title defence with a disappointing 75 at Firestone.
Keenan Davidse (Rsa) – First Round 63 (-8)
I don’t know what to say (laughs). It’s not like I’m shocked. I’m obviously very happy, pleased obviously. I’ve worked very hard. I went to Mauritius last week and didn’t play too well. I was in hospital for about four days. So I’m very chuffed today.
When I played the Sunshine Tour event at Simola, my little boy was sick with a bad chest. Then my wife had flu, and then I got flu, and lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t deal with that and the heat in Mauritius so I checked myself into hospital for four days.
I didn’t really have any expectations coming into the week. I’m just out here to have fun, obviously, so I’m very blessed to be playing well.
Some people say Bushwillow is easy – and I have just shot 63 – but to be fair, it’s not easy. You can’t say any golf course is easy. You’ve still got to hit the ball. The flags were pretty good. The rough’s not as up as it is on Firethorn, but it’s a good test. You’ve still got to hit your ball in the right areas and then you have to make the putts.
I don’t have a preference for the courses. Firethorn is just another course. If you play what’s in front of you, you’re going to play well, but if you play fearing the tournament, you’re going to play badly. I’ve experienced that a few times. I’m not here to paint pictures. I’m here to write down numbers. I got a good number down today and I’m just going to take it day by day.
Sebastian Heisele (Ger) – First Round 64 (-7)
I’m very happy. I had a good day. I was in position last week as well so hopefully I make the most of today and do a better job in the next few days. It was a good way to end the day because there are a couple of holes where you can pick up some shots.
I putted really well and hit the ball fairly well. I had a terrible bogey on the 14th hole after a bad bunker shot but I got away with one bad shot. I’ll take that and move into tomorrow.
There are 240 guys here so somebody is bound to shoot a low one, especially on that side of the course. We knew that going into today and told ourselves to try and play aggressive on that side and see where we stand.
I started with an eagle on the first and that gave me some momentum boost. It got easier from there and picked up another eagle on the 12th hole. I had a good finish in the end and I’m in good position for tomorrow.
James Morrison (Eng) – First Round 64 (-7)
I’m very happy. I played very well from start to finish. I had a really good three ball and we ticked along really well. We got lucky because we didn’t get any rain until the 18th fairway. The course is softer as compared to when I played on Monday. That’s the way it is with the storms we have here. Fingers crossed the rain will stay away from us.
My game is in really good shape. My brain is in good shape which is the main thing in this game. I finished top-10 in Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago. This game is a silly game, you never know when it is going to happen so you have to keep playing well and giving your best shot the whole time.
I hit the ball an average length. This course (Bushwillow) suits me down to the ground where you got to keep it on the fairway, hit it good with the short irons and wedges. I did that today. I got it in play and hit it close when I had to. I’m a good chipper and putter so this golf course sets up well for me. The other golf course is quite similar, if you can keep it in play, you have a chance to score.
Matthew Baldwin (Eng) – First Round 64 (-7)
I’m very pleased. It was nice playing first thing this morning. I got off to a good start with a pair of threes. We had a spell where there was quite heavy rain playing the third, but other than that, it’s been pretty good.
It was great getting two eagles. To start with an eagle is very nice and then to follow it up on 12 was a good feeling.
There wasn’t really pressure to get a good number knowing that I was playing Bushwillow first. You’ve just got to play your golf and see how you go. Now I’ve got three days on the so-called big course, and I’m looking forward to it.
The small greens on Bushwillow tested my game most. Second shots are important. Off the tees, it’s quite narrow in places. It’s more of a tactical course. It’s not driver everywhere, but I think the fact that the greens are small means if you hit a lot of greens, you’ve got a lot of birdie chances.
I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing when I take on Firethorn tomorrow. Unfortunately, I didn’t play last week in Mauritius, but hopefully this week I can make amends.
Getting a spot in The Open would be nice. But I’ll take things one day at a time.
Jared Harvey (RSA) – First Round 64 (-7)
It was a bit of luck finishing with a birdie and then the rain came! Coming down the last couple of holes, I was a little bit nervous. There was a big hold-up on 17, I think with two or three groups.
I didn’t even know until I finished, but thank goodness, I do now that I was bogey-free. I take a lot of confidence from that. I struggled a bit last week in Mauritius. But I’ve had a good season so I think it’s quite important to step it up this week and find what has had me on a good run for most of the year.
Bushwillow was really good. There was a bit of a swirling breeze the last couple of holes, but other than that, it’s there where you find it. It’s like a normal golf course. If you play nicely, you’re going to score well, and if you’re going to be off line, you’re going to struggle. Fortunately, I played quite nicely.
A lot of the holes are doglegs and the rough is quite up, so if you’re missing it at bad angles off the tee, you can be quite blocked out by trees. So I was quite pleased to be driving it nicely today, and I felt like my long game was really good today. But the thing that stood out the most was the putter. I actually changed my putter today. I was very pleased with a few putts today.
Scott Barr (Aus) – First Round 65 (-6)
It was a tricky day. The wind was swirling and we had a little bit of rain at the start. It was a difficult day just to get the direction of the wind so I’m very pleased with what happened.
I played the front nine well and didn’t get what I deserved. The wind was playing havoc and but on the back nine my confidence was up and I played solid. I was out early and the greens were in great shape, the fairways are beautiful so it is actually a very nice golf course (Bushwillow) to play on.
It is a fun course to play on. It is short but you need to hit the right yardages off the tee. Tomorrow I’m playing on the big course so I need to wrap my head around that.