Niall Kearney leads the Irish charge at the inaugural DP World Tour event, the Joburg Open in South Africa, but Jonathan Caldwell will be rueing a bogey-filled first round at the Firethorn Course at Randpark.
Dubliner Kearney carded four birdies and three bogeys in a one-under 70 in Johannesburg that leaves him five shots off the lead, held by Angel Hidalgo and Thriston Lawrence at six-under.
However, for a long time it looked like Caldwell would be the leading local man as he superbly bounced back after starting his round with three straight bogeys by shooting six birdies in his next eight holes to reach three-under.
But just when it looked like he was making a push for the top of the leaderboard, he ran into trouble, double-bogeys at the par-five 12th and his final hole of the day, the par-four 16th, dropping him back down again to level-par.
The Clandeboye man is among a small group of players who will return on Friday morning to finish their first rounds after poor weather suspended play, as will Paul Dunne, who is three-over through 15.
The Greystones man, who has dropped outside the top-1700 in the world after hand surgery in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic, mixed just two birdies with five bogeys to sit in a share of 105th at the close of play.
That means 33-year-old Kearney is the best of the Irish as he produced a relatively stress-free 70 that has him just outside the top-30 after the opening day’s play.
The former Walker Cup star countered a bogey at the second with a birdie at the third before a run of six straight pars, then did the same at 10 and 11 to stay level-par, with a birdie-bogey-birdie finish seeing him back in the clubhouse at one-under.
That has him five back of Spain’s Hidalgo, who is the clubhouse leader at six-under, and South Africa’s own Lawrence, who could yet hold the first round lead on his own if he birdies the final hole of his first round, which he has yet to complete.
Hidalgo set the target by bouncing back from a bogey on his opening hole with six birdies, an eagle and one further dropped shot, and he was quickly joined in the afternoon by Lawrence, whose two eagles, three birdies and one eagle has him tied atop the leaderboard.
“This start means a lot to me. It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s great to be here and playing with the best, so let’s start the party.”
- Full scoring HERE