There were contrasting fortunes for the two veterans who posted the best first round scores on the East and West courses of Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Friday as overnight leader Nic Henning found himself out in the cold again, while Wallie Coetsee was sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard for the Joburg Open.
Henning, who opened the tournament with a course record equalling 62 on the West Course, started well enough on Friday with a birdie on the East Course’s 472-metre par-five opening hole. But a horrible slab of four consecutive bogeys from the fifth hole put him under pressure and, although he birdied the 11th hole, a double-bogey at 13 derailed him once again and he finished with two more bogeys to shoot a 78 that left him way down the leaderboard.
So far down, in fact, that Henning (-3), the good news story of the first day, actually missed the cut, which was made on four-under-par, by one stroke.
While Henning sunk beneath the waves, Coetsee surfaced at the end of a cooler day in Linksfield with a one-shot lead as he backed up his brilliant first-round 66 on the East Course with a six-under-par 65 on the West Course to go to 12-under-par overall.
Beneath the 42-year-old South African on the leaderboard are three golfers on 11-under, compatriots Garth Mulroy and Tjaart van der Walt, and Englishman Simon Dyson, while Niclas Fasth and Anthony Wall are on 10-under.
Coetsee has been on tour since 1992 and, while he enjoys the quiet life in Jeffrey’s Bay, there is clearly still plenty of competitive fire burning in him as he started the year by getting an Asian Tour card through their gruelling qualifying school in Thailand.
The laidback winner of two Sunshine Tour events spends every evening after his round braaing and he says his relaxed approach helped him on Friday to not push too hard, especially during a run of seven successive pars that followed a bogey on the seventh hole.
“I was very patient and my game plan was just to leave the tough pins, go for the safer side. You can’t attack every flag, there’s a time to go and a time to be safe. Patience is the key, you can’t force things, it will happen,” Coetsee said.
“You live for the moment when you play well, and I must enjoy that, but I’m back to level-par tomorrow. I need to just stay in the present and tonight I’ll have another braai.”
The patient approach paid off for Coetsee when he eagled the par-five 15th and then another birdie on the par-four 17th gave him the lead.
“I’d had very good up-and-downs on 13 and 14, and then on 15 I hit a very good drive and had 218 metres to the flag. I hit a four-iron pin-high, five or six metres from the hole and sank the putt,” Coetsee explained.
Van der Walt is another old stager enjoying a wonderful tournament and he reached the turn on 12-under after picking up four birdies on the East Course, before running out of steam a bit on the back nine and settling for a 69.
Dyson also went to town on the front nine, with three successive birdies from the sixth hole setting him up for a 67.