American Max Homa said he wanted to put on a show for the Sun City crowds on his Nedbank Golf Challenge debut and he certainly did that on Thursday as he claimed a share of the first-round lead in ‘Africa’s Major’.
The world number eight opened with a six-under-par 66 to share a one-stroke lead with Nicolai Højgaard, Dan Bradbury and Vincent Norrman.
Any anxiety Homa had about being tournament rusty after a lengthy break was dispelled by his perfect start.
“It was mildly shocking. I would’ve assumed I’d shoot six over rather than six under so it was a treat,” said a surprised Homa, who never dropped a single shot in the heat of round one.
“It was very stress free. This is a tricky golf course. If you’re in the fairway I feel like you can get some good looks for birdie. I putted very well today. I was obviously pretty rusty so the goal was to just give myself some putts and ease my way into it.
“I don’t feel like I’m swinging it amazing but my short irons were really good. I was very accurate. Off the tee I didn’t feel perfect but I just felt like I knew where I could miss it and I did a good job of controlling that. On the back nine I was able to find something with my driver and could be a bit more aggressive.”
Amongst his co-leaders, Englishman Bradbury was a familiar sight at the top of a leaderboard in South Africa. The reigning Joburg Open champion was equally pleased with his start. “I think it’s the good steaks I eat in South Africa that make me play well here,” he said.
Just one shot behind the leaders is the trio of Adrian Meronk, Ryo Hisatsune and Julien Guerrier. Francesco Molinari finished the opening day just two shots off the lead.
The tournament also celebrated only its second hole-in-one in its history as Sweden’s Jens Dantorp aced the par-three seventh hole.
Hennie du Plessis is the leading South African after day one following a round of two-under-par 70.