Vaughn looking to consolidate after whirlwind day
What a day it was on Thursday for Vaughn Groenewald. The local professional arrived at his home club, the Els Club Copperleaf, for this week’s Tshwane Open and began his round with four steady pars having teed off the tenth hole.
But things were to get significantly better for the 38-year-old, as a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-three 14th hole sparked a remarkable run of five consecutive birdies. He reached the turn in a five-under score of 31, and admits that he was in something of a spin by that stage.
“I started off with a couple of pars, and then made a putt on the par three,” Groenewald told supersport.com. “Next thing I knew, I’d made five birdies in a row! It was a heck of a start, and I could hardly believe it by the time I reached halfway.
“I was just going for the flags and I was hitting it close the whole time to be honest. It was just a case of riding the wave. I actually hit a good putt on one, and just missed. On two I missed another one that I thought was in, so it could have been seven in a row! But that’s how it goes.”
The near misses early on his second nine preceded a disappointing run of holes on the par-three third and 625-metre par-five fourth, as three dropped shots brought a halt to his momentum.
“I made a few silly mistakes on the front nine, which was my back nine. I three putted the third hole. Then on the fourth I just went brain dead with my second shot. I wanted to lay it up left, but I found the bunker. Then I pulled it left into another bunker, left it in that bunker, and ended up making a good seven in the end! It’s too late now to fix it up, but I don’t think I’ll make those mistakes again hey!” he smiled.
Groenewald has enjoyed some of the most consistent form of his career in the last three years, and, despite not being able to add to the two victories that he claimed in 2006, he has firmly entrenched himself in the top-40 of the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit.
However, he has managed to make just two cuts in events co-sanctioned by the European Tour in the last two years, and it is his form in showpieces such as these that he is looking to improve.
“There is more pressure because the standard is much higher, and you have to play well to keep up. So when it’s tougher, you have to take your chances when you’re playing nicely,” Groenewald explained.
“But events like these are such a credit to the Sunshine Tour. To have six co-sanctioned events is fantastic for South African golf, so things are on the up. It’s also a really great experience to be playing with the European guys, and I’m just trying to make the most of it,” he added.
The 7 123-metre course is one of the longest to be used on the European Tour, and, with two par fives measuring in excess of 600 metres, Groenewald’s score of 68 on day one would appear to be highly impressive. But the field littered with some of Europe’s finest golfers have offered up some remarkable scores, and Groenewald already found himself three-strokes adrift of the lead after day one. However, he remains optimistic about his chances, and feels home-ground advantage could prove significant.
“I’m playing well, and I’ve been a member at this course for a good couple of years now so I know the layout. I’m very confident for the rest of the week. I just need to cut out the mistakes that I made yesterday! I also haven’t quite got the pace of the greens yet but I’m getting there,” he said.
“But this course really is great. The greenkeeper has got it in great nick this week, and it’s just a pleasure to be out here.”