Just like last week, Combrinck Smit took advantage of an eagle – a pair of them this time – as he fired a blemish-free nine-under-par 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead of the R1-million Lombard Insurance Classic at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.
Smit led the first round of last week’s tournament and he had a two-stroke edge over a group of three players on seven under as he made a birdie and two eagles ahead of the turn, and four more birdies on his way home. Vaughn Groenewald, Colin Nel and Ulrich van den Berg made up the trailing trio.
‘Two eagles definitely made nine under par especially sweet,’ he said. ‘I made a nice long putt for the first one on five, and the one on seven, I hit to about a foot-and-a-half. In my mind, I was still thinking they were worth five points each, like last week’s tournament which was scored on Modified Stableford, but it was good to start off my first nine like that.
‘I was thinking about being bogey-free. I didn’t want to drop a shot. There were a couple of close shaves. I had a couple of good up-and-downs, especially on the last hole where I had about an eight-footer for par and I managed to make it.
‘These greens, if you get it going on the day, you can make quite a lot of putts. But you can go through some bad patches where you can hit a good putt and it just misses. But I’m hitting it well off the tee, my iron shots are good and my putter is working. So, all in all, I’m very happy.’
For the trio in second, it was a solid start for players who are all in good form and seeking new Sunshine Tour victories.
Groenewald last won in 2016 at Arabella in the Western Cape. ‘I putted nicely,’ he said after holing a ‘monster’ on 18 for birdie. ‘I over-read one or two putts, but overall, it’s great.’
Nel won even longer ago, back in 2014 at the Wild Coast. ‘I’d say a bit of everything was working well,’ he said, ‘especially the iron-play and the putting. The last few weeks have been nice. I’ve been a bit more consistent and that’s been my goal for a while.’
Van den Berg has to go even further back to 2013 when he won at Glendower for his last win. ‘I played very well today,’ he said. ‘I putted solidly, and whenever I needed to make a par putt, I did it. There are a lot of birdie chances out here.’
Behind that trio in second, there was a big group on six under, consisting of Andre de Decker, Rhys West, Justin Harding, Martin Rohwer, Andre Nel and Lyle Rowe. Harding won on this course last week, and Rowe came close, so both bring form into the weekend.
But Smit, too, was in great shape last week with his share of seventh. ‘I’m feeling a bit of momentum from last week,’ he said. ‘I just had one round where I couldn’t get it going as much, but that happens. As we all know, there is still a lot of holes to be played, but I’m definitely feeling confident in my game, and I know I can play well over the weekend.
‘I am looking for a win now. I’m trying not to think about it but definitely feeling that I can do it. I’ll just keep playing and see how it turns out.’
Photo: Supplied/Sunshine Tour
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