Cape Town – Doug McGuigan carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 on Wednesday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the R800,000 Royal Swazi Spa Challenge.
His consistency gave him an edge over four players on five-under: Daniel van Tonder, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Andre de Decker and Erhard Lambrechts all carded 67, with a big group of seven players a further shot back on four-under.
“Today it just seemed to work out for me. To be bogey-free around this golf course is always rewarding,” said McGuigan. “I haven’t had great success at Swaziland over the last couple of years. I have had one or two low rounds but never finished things off like I did today.”
He got his round off to a solid start with a birdie on the second, and, with two more on the sixth and seventh ahead of the turn, things were looking good. “It helped to have the company of Jared Harvey and Keith Horne,” said McGuigan. “Jared’s a character in his own right, and I’ve known Keith for 25 years, so it was a relaxed day out there.”
Things got even better on his homeward nine, with birdies on 10, 13, 15 and 17. He was a little frustrated at missing out on a birdie on the par-five 12th, but when he pushed his drive a bit, the trees caught the ball, and he was unable to convert a difficult birdie chance when he did make the green in regulation.
It was a case of turning what he knows about the course from years of experience into something that will set him up for the rest of the tournament. “I’ve always felt like I should be playing well here because there is a lot of short irons and wedges into par-fours,” he said.
“I think I just put too much pressure on myself to do well here, because it isn’t a long course. The bigger hitters haven’t got a huge advantage. I decided to rather go for the middle of the green if I didn’t have a go flag and it worked out nicely.”
Van Tonder converted his good form from the last Sunshine Tour tournament into yet another good round, and, with a victory at this course to his name, should stay strongly in contention for the full 54 holes. He dropped just a single shot – on the 10th, his first on the day – on his way to his 67.
Nethunzwi is in the middle of a good run, which, although it hasn’t delivered him a top-10 result yet, seems destined to do so sooner rather than later.
In the group on four-under was Shaun Norris, back in South Africa for three tournaments from Japan and his stint at The Open where he played with Tiger Woods.
For McGuigan, the return to form will be a motivator in the second round, as he attempts to get himself into the kind of shape which saw him win twice on the Sunshine Tour last year.