Three-way tie for the lead in Oubaai
South Africa’s Louis Taylor and Werner Ferreira, and Australian sensation Ryan Ruffels opened with rounds of six-under-par 66 to share the lead in Tuesday’s first round of the South African Stroke Play Championship at the Hyatt Regency Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa.
They are two strokes clear of South Africa’s Damian Naicker and Joris Etlin of France in a championship that has drawn a strong international contingent on the back of last week’s Ten Nations Cup tournament. And it was Australia’s victory in that event that has seen the likes of Ruffels enter this week in a confident mood.
“I suppose we are riding a bit of momentum at the moment,” said the 14-year-old rising star of Australian amateur golf, and the son of former professional tennis player Ray Ruffels.
But Ruffels was more impressed with his playing partner Taylor. The South African seemed headed for the sole lead when he went out in 30, with seven birdies and two pars, and climbed to eight under through 13.
“That was pretty insane to watch,” said Ruffels. But Taylor dropped three shots in four holes before a birdie at the last.
“To be eight under and then finish six under is a little disappointing. But if you’d offered me 66 at the start of the round I would’ve taken it,” said the Johannesburg golfer, who opened with four straight birdies. “After that I just decided to keep attacking the course.”
An error in club selection on the par-three 14th cost him a double bogey when he took a three iron off the tee and into the wind, and his ball pitched over the water to the right of the green but then trickled back in.
Ruffels took advantage on the same hole when he rifled a three wood to within inches for a tap-in birdie.
“That was a bonus, but to be honest I was hitting the ball close all day. I only had one birdie putt of about 20 feet. The rest were all inside six feet,” the Australian said.
Pretoria amateur Ferreira built his 66 on a hot putter and a bit of luck. Teeing off the 10th, he was three under through the first four holes, thanks to a good bounce on the par-three 11th.
Ferreira pulled a six iron far left, and his ball hit a sprinkler and bounced right and onto the middle of the green from where he made par. But it was his eagle and two birdies in his final four holes that secured him a share of the lead.
“This is my best tournament round so far, and to do so in the first round of the SA Stroke Play Championship is very satisfying,” he said.
Ferreira is hoping he can follow through after this good start, having led last year’s Ekurhuleni Open going into the closing stretch and then bogeying his final three holes to slip into a playoff, which he lost.
“That’s been my best finish so far, and it was a bittersweet one. But you learn from these things,” he said.
South African No 1 Haydn Porteous opened with a three-under 69, while Australian Brady Watt, the highest ranked player in the field at five on the world amateur ranking, signed for a one-under 71.