Jacques P de Villiers took his chances best on Thursday with a four-under-par 68 to share the lead of the first round of the VOG Final at Pinnacle Point in the Sunshine Tour’s first ever tournament at the spectacular course.
He made five birdies and just a single bogey in his round to set the pace, Chris Swanepoel, who started his round later in the day, made seven birdies, but three dropped shots saw him sign for a matching 68 to join De Villiers at the top of the leaderboard.
‘My play all round was really good,’ said De Villiers of his round, ‘but my chipping was the key factor in not losing momentum, and it made putting a lot easier.’
Not that putting was too much of a challenge towards the end of his round, as he closed with a pair of birdies.
‘Birdie-birdie finish was really nice,’ he said. ‘I hit two very nice shots on 17 and 18. I hit it really close on 17 and made birdie there from about four feet, and then I almost holed my approach on 18 with my wedge. It was a good round!’
It’s been a tough season for De Villiers, with just two cuts made. Most often, that has been a product of a good round followed by a bad one, or vice versa, but his most recent cut saw him finish in a share of seventh in the Vodacom Origins event at St Francis Links in September.
‘I’ve had a couple of good rounds in tournaments recently, and the plan is to try and string three together,” he said. “I had two very nice rounds in St Francis to get the belief back. The first round let me down a bit there, but I’ve got off to a good one now.”
That good start might be of inestimable value, as the forecast for the second round includes winds gusting between 50 and 60 kilometres per hour.
‘The course was tough but fortunately the weather has been good,’ said De Villers. ‘It was pretty fair this morning, but tomorrow is going to be a bit windier, so we’ll see how that goes. I don’t mind the wind too much, but sometimes it can really get to you. I’ll just keep a level head and I should be fine.
‘Two shots better than anyone else as I’ve finished, and that’s definitely an advantage going into the second round on a windy day. This morning I thought it was important to post a good one in conditions that were good enough, and that has made it less stressful for tomorrow. But I’ll just take it hole-by-hole.’
Swanepoel is famously not enamoured of coastal courses generally, but he was taken aback by the spectacular views he saw during what was only his second playing of Pinnacle Point,
‘How anyone had the vision to put the course in this kind of setting is just incredible,’ he said. ‘It’s the most beautiful course I’ve ever played.’
He was also smart enough to make friends with a resident on the estate. ‘He has played over 200 rounds here,’ he said. ‘He helped me a lot before the tournament, telling me about the wind and how it affects each hole.’
De Villiers and Swanepoel had a one-stroke edge over England’s Steve Surry, who three-putted the last hole on his way to a 69.
There were seven players on two-under-par 70 including Jbe’ Kruger, Jacques Blaauw and Lyle Rowe.
First round leaderboard:
68 – Jacques P de Villiers, Chris Swanepoel
69 – Steve Surry
70 – Jbe’ Kruger, Doug McGuigan, Alex Haindl, Michael Palmer, Lyle Rowe, Jacques Blaauw, Derick Petersen
71 – James Kamte, Keenan Davidse, Rhys West, Christo Lamprecht, Madalitso Muthiya
72 – Herman Loubser, Zander Lombard, Toto Thimba, Philip Eriksson
73 – Aubrey Beckley, Callum Mowat, Ryan Tipping
74 – Duane Keun, Titch Moore, Jake Redman, Hennie du Plessis, Daniel van Tonder, Martin Vorster, Scott Campbell, Ruan de Smidt, Anthony Michael, Gideon van der Vyver, Michael Schutz, Erhard Lambrechts, Andrew Odoh, Luke Joy, Stephen Ferreira, Vaughn Groenewald, JJ Senekal, Kyle McClatchie
75 – Phumlani Maluka, Allister de Kock, Jade Buitendag, Philip Geerts, Louis Albertse, Marthin Scheepers, Thabang Simon, Chris Cannon, Christiaan Basson, Jonathan Agren, Fredrik From, Jean Hugo, Anton Haig, Wynand Dingle, Steven Lecuyer
76 – Theunis Bezuidenhout, Desne Van Den Bergh, Heinrich Bruiners, Keith Horne, Jake Roos, David McIntyre, Yubin Jung, Wallie Coetsee, Andre Nel, Dawie Van der Walt, Michael Hollick
77 – Combrinck Smit, Luke Jerling, Hennie Otto, Pieter Moolman, Andrew van der Knaap, Franklin Manchest, Jason Viljoen
78 – Estiaan Conradie, Jaco Prinsloo, Charl Coetzee, Bryandrew Roelofsz, Gerrit Foster, Basil Wright, Colin Nel, Breyten Meyer, Bennie van der Merwe
79 – Riekus Nortje, Joe Nawanga, Luke Trocado, Roberto Lupini
80 – Kayyam Rauf Mandhu, Ruan Conradie, CJ du Plessis, Teaghan Gauche, Keelan Africa, Ulrich van den Berg
81 – Jacquin Hess, Ockie Strydom
82 – Martin Rohwer
83 – Samba Niang, Makhetha Mazibuko
84 – Jason Smith, Omar Sandys
86 – Wayne Stroebel
87 – Benjamin Follett-Smith
DQ – Mohammad Rauf Mandhu