European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington returned a rock-solid one-under par round of 71 as he looks to take advantage of a lucrative invite to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the penultimate event on this year’s Race to Dubai.
The Dubliner mixed three birdies and two bogeys in a competent showing around Sun City to sit in a tie for 25th after day one in South Africa.
Harrington is the sole Irish representative at the tournament but at minus-one, he’s tied with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger who another Irishman, Shane Lowry, will be keeping a close watch on this week from his family holiday in Dubai.
Lowry trails Race leader Wiesberger from third place and he’ll be hoping for a sub-par showing from the Austrian in order to maximise Lowry’s chances of launching himself to European Number One next week at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Estates.
Meanwhile home favourite, Louis Oosthuizen carded a stunning bogey free round of 63 to open up a three shot lead after day one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player – the seventh Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai.
The South African has claimed five of his nine European Tour wins on home soil but has yet to lift the trophy at the event they call “Africa’s Major”- although he has three top tens in his last four appearances at Gary Player Country Club.
His victory earlier this season at the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg fulfilled a long held ambition to win his national championship and he now has the perfect platform to launch a challenge for a first Rolex Series win.
His nine-under par effort was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he withdrew from Wednesday’s pro-am with kidney stones and was not sure he would be able to play at all just hours before his tee time.
“Considering that at 3am this morning, I didn’t think I was doing going to tee it up, I’m very chuffed with that round,” he reflected.
“I woke yesterday with kidney stones and this morning was very uncomfortable, but it sort of eased at 6, 7am. You could see me walking slower and just going at everything a little slower out there.
“But I know I played good at the WGC-HSBC Champions two weeks ago and I know the swing is there, the putting’s there. I just need to be healthy to play.
“I just love this golf course. One of my first wins on the Sunshine Tour was here, the Dimension Data, and every time I play here, it brings back a lot of good memories.”
Belgian Thomas Detry is Oosthuizen’s nearest challenger at six-under par, one shot ahead of Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year crown after recording two wins in his debut season.
Defending champion Lee Westwood, three time winner Ernie Els and another home favourite in Zander Lombard are at four-under par, while 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and South African pair George Coetzee and Richard Sterne are amongst a group of ten players at three-under par.
Full scoring HERE