ST FRANCIS BAY (Eastern Cape) – It wasn’t the gale-force wind that was predicted, but it was windy enough that both Frenchman David Ravetto and Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen were extremely pleased with their opening 67s for a share the first round clubhouse lead in the SDC Championship at St Francis Links on Thursday.
Their rounds of five under par earned them a one-stroke lead over Scotland’s Connor Syme in this Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned tournament. The round was suspended at 18:35 due to fading light and will resume on Friday morning before the start of the second round.
The field had been waiting for this wind since Tuesday. While St Francis Links locals would’ve called it a standard wind for their golf course, it certainly caught the attention of the professionals on day one. Only 30 players in the field of 156 managed to shoot below par on Thursday.
Ravetto, though, called it “fun”. “This is a really nice golf course and it needs the wind to play to its potential. It’s fun to play it in the wind with a couple of nice tee shots and second shots,” he said of a day where his biggest challenge was the wake-up call for a 6:30am tee time.
“The wake-up call was pretty hard, but I played really solid golf in the windy conditions. My putting was really solid compared to the past few weeks.”
Johannessen was equally pleased with his bogey-free round. “I’m very happy. I started on the 10th and that nine suits my eye a bit more. The front nine can be tough. But overall I managed to score well. You have to be patient here when it blows. It all comes down to the weather and you need to just keep your ball in play.”
Behind them, Scotland’s Syme felt somewhat at home this far south in Africa. “The wind switched 180 degrees and it was like playing a different course today compared to what we had in the practice rounds. But I used my experience from Scotland hitting low drives and punch shots into the wind. Overall I made a few mistakes but I also made a lot of good birdies out there. I was in a lot of good positions off the tee. So much so that my bogeys felt quite sloppy, even though you’re going to make mistakes out there. I drove it well and that’s the main challenge of this golf course.”
Sean Cronje is the leading South African following his opening round of three under par 69. – Michael Vlismas