Jean Hugo started fast in the first round of the 2017 Zimbabwe Open on Thursday, and he kept his foot on the pedal to card a seven-under-par 65 for a one-stroke lead at Royal Harare Golf Club.
And it could have been even better had he not made bogeys on seven and 13, but that didn’t bother him much as he finished one ahead of Zimbabwean hopeful Ryan Cairns, with six players a further stroke back on five-under-par.
‘I had a good start,’ said Hugo. ‘I hit a very good approach on the first and I birdied that from short range, and then I made eagle from about six or eight feet on three. Then on the fourth, I basically hit it stone dead.
‘That’s a good start, and with these par-fives reachable, you try and be conservative on the more difficult holes and attack those you can score on – the shorter ones.’
He’s played well on the Royal Harare layout for a long time, and that experience shone through in the opening round.
‘Ever since I lost to Mark McNulty here in 2000 – there was a three-shot swing on the last hole when I made double-bogey and he made birdie – I’ve played well on this course,’ he said.
‘I don’t know why, because it’s narrow and I’m not the straightest. But my putting probably makes up for that. I had 27 putts today, which is not magnificent, but I didn’t miss much. The greens are superb, so if you actually do get close – or even from longer range like 25 feet – you’ve got a great chance,’ he added.
With the tournament heralding the start of the Sunshine Tour’s 2017-18 season, Hugo wasn’t sure what to expect from his game after a lengthy break since the Tshwane Open, which finished on 5 March.
‘Normally I like to play a lot of golf, so that by the third or fourth tournament, you get that momentum,’ he said.
‘So for all of us, this was like a hit and hope. But I did some work in the five weeks we had off. I also took a few weeks off and went to the farm. In the week leading up to this, I worked hard, especially on the short game which obviously helped.’
Cairns started his round on the 10th, and a bogey on his eighth – the 17th – enraged him enough that he went on something of a birdie spree, with four in a row around the turn, and another two as he finished his round. ‘Maybe I must get angry more often,’ he said, laughing.
The group on five under consisted of rookie Luke Jerling, Keenan Davidse, CJ du Plessis, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Oliver Bekker and Francois Coetzee.
Photo: Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images