Clark, Madsen lead in Durban
A morning round of five-under 60 from Tim Clark at the dramatically-shortened Royal Durban Golf Club was matched by Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen in the afternoon as the pair seized a share of the first-round lead in the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa on Saturday.
Incessant rains in recent weeks continued into Thursday and Friday, and only the remarkable efforts of local emergency services, municipalities, staff and members allowed play to get going at 6:30am today.
Clark got his round underway at 7:20am on the tenth hole, and a quiet start to the round was ignited by a birdie blitz on the three of the four consecutive par-threes on his opening nine. And while a bogey at the sixth hole cancelled out his birdie at the second, the 36 year-old gathered himself and closed his round out with two fine birdies.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether having more par threes would that make it easier or not. It wasn’t that easy out there, but I was amazed at how good the greens were with all the rain they’ve had,” Clark said.
“The greens were pretty firm and obviously great to putt on. I made some good putts and that’s really what gives me this score. Obviously I gave myself a lot of chances, I made some good twos on some of those par threes too.”
This video is not available in your region
Few would have dared estimate a winning score for the event before the first ball was struck, and many players might have been a bit hesitant over their strategy or mindset. But Clark had no such concerns, and clearly laid out his plans for the final round tomorrow.
“It’s just the same as today really (his approach for tomorrow). I’ll just come out and try to make birdies. If it is going to be a two-round tournament, you’ve got to go low. Normally you can sort of pace yourself, get to the weekend, play and sneak home. But right now you’ve got to go as low as you can and be aggressive,” the man from Umkomaas said.
“Even today you had to go out and make birdies if you wanted to have a chance. I was hitting a lot of drivers, I was certainly not trying to play it safe out there. I was being aggressive.”
He spent much of the day in sole possession of the lead, but as proceedings wore on and the stiff afternoon breeze abated, a late charge came from a lesser-known figure in the form of Madsen.
The Dane posted a four-under-par 27 for his outward nine, and followed two soft bogeys early in his second nine with three birdies in his last five holes to keep Clark company overnight at the summit of the leaderboard.
“It was fun. We’ve had a long wait to get started, but it was nice to finally get out there and hit some shots again,” Madsen said after his round.
The 24 year-old took part in the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School at the PGA Catalunya just over a week ago, and has carried on the good form from where he secured his card.
“I was a little bit worn out from q-school, but I was also really excited to get going. I mean this is the dream and I couldn’t wait to get started.
“I like my chances now. It’s a good position I’m in. I just have to go out tomorrow and focus on my own game and play it shot-by-shot. It’s kind of cliché, but that’s what I have to do and see where it puts me,” the Dane said.
The duo have two players on their tails a further stroke adrift. Local player Lindani Ndwandwe had signed for a four-under-par 61 earlier this morning, but it wasn’t until late in the day that he was joined by England’s Chris Lloyd.
The Brit, like Madsen, comes into the event fresh from Qualifying School graduation two weeks ago, and was pleased with his efforts in his first event of the season.
“I really enjoyed myself today. It was obviously a bit strange starting on a Saturday and the course is set up slightly different to what you’d expect, but you’ve still got to play the game and get the ball in the hole,” Lloyd said.
“I’m one back with one round to go, and anything can happen. So I’m very satisfied with where I am with 18 holes left.”
A look down the leaderboard demonstrates the tremendous congestion amongst the players. In fact, 10 players concluded the day at three-under, while a further 16 finished at two-under.
That translates into 30 golfers being separated by just three shots, and it goes without saying that it’s anyone’s title when the players set foot on the course tomorrow.