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Golf | SA

Adilson da Silva © Gallo Images

Van Zyl, Da Silva lead at East London

In a day dominated by volatile winds, Jaco van Zyl and Brazil’s Adilson da Silva emerged as co-leaders of the Africa Open Golf Challenge on six-under par before time was called on an incomplete opening day at East London Golf Club on Thursday.

Van Zyl, who was in the morning field, finished his round shortly after a three-hour delay due to strong winds in the early afternoon, while Da Silva’s late tee-time meant he had only played nine holes by the time he reached six-under par.

Englishman John Parry completed a birdie-filled round of 68 to find himself alone in third place, while Telkom PGA Pro-Am champion Oliver Bekker’s round of 69 earned him a share of fourth with Finland’s Mikko Korhonen; who reached three under after completing eleven holes, and Andrew Curlewis who did so after eight.

Early morning winds strengthened to gale-force levels, and, with gusts in excess of 70 km/h, play was suspended shortly before 11:30am. The decision by the European and Sunshine Tour officials appeared vindicated; as stationary balls were beginning to roll on the greens, along with an incident where Tjaart van der Walt (70) was bundled over by a hefty gust when leaning down to mark his ball.

Having begun his round at 7:40am on the par-four ninth hole, Van Zyl was surveying an eagle putt on his 15th of the day when play was halted, and had raced to four-under by that stage.

“I was definitely happy to come off,” Van Zyl said. “I was on the green for one on five, and everyone said ‘you’re in such a good rhythm, don’t you want to finish up?’ The last three or four holes before that I was only thinking about getting off the golf course!”

“It was really tough. A couple of hours before they called us off - and right up until the time - it was blowing. We were on two, three, four, five and we got to the top of the hill on five and I could literally almost not stand up straight!” he added.

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Van Zyl and most of the morning field then had to endure a wait of nearly three hours before play resumed. But when he strode out at 14:15 to complete his round, he closed things out in emphatic fashion, as two birdies and two pars took him to six under for the day.

“I’m hitting it nicely this week. I was battling with the swing a bit last week, and it’s nice that I carried the short game over. Hopefully I can keep up the form and have another shout on Sunday,” he said.

The luck of the draw didn’t smile on Van Zyl and his colleagues from the morning field, as they bemusedly watched the wind steadily die down as the afternoon wore on, and scores dramatically improved.

Da Silva was one of the beneficiaries of the changing conditions, and five birdies steered him to within one stroke of Van Zyl’s lead by the time he reached his ninth hole. Having hit two good shots to the fringe of the green at the lengthy par-four, he’d begun rolling a 20-foot birdie putt when the siren sounded for the end of the day’s play. The ball didn’t seem distracted though, and it buried in the cup to complete an impressive outward nine of 29 for the 41 year-old.

“We definitely got a bit of luck with the late start. Not a bit, a lot of luck,” he joked. “And we started on the first and I managed to get a birdie, so it’s positive start.”

“I hit a good tee shot on two and holed a 15-footer for birdie, and that’s when I thought ‘woah, this is working!’ I’ve been struggling with my putting, but today was really good. I couldn’t believe it because my putting has been very ‘iffy’ for a long time and they suddenly started to drop – it’s very nice!” the experienced Brazilian added.

The downside of the draw is that Da Silva, like many others, will face an early start tomorrow, and admitted that the prospect of 27 holes will be difficult given some back ailments.

“It’s an early morning tomorrow. We’re teeing off on 10, the par three, which is ok. Then we’ve got a tough hole – the new par-four 11th – so we’ll have to see. I’ll come early tomorrow and get a bit of work done on my back, because it was feeling a little tight by the end,” he explained.

Play will resume at 7am on Friday with the times for the second round being determined once round one is complete.


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