Tom McKibbin shot a four-over 76 in the opening round of the co-sanctioned SDC Championship at St. Francis’ Links on South Africa’s southern tip.
Wind gusts hit 35 mph in the afternoon, making it as much a test of mental endurance as golfing ability, and McKibbin was a victim of the draw as he teed off just after midday and played through the worst of it.
Despite the difficult conditions, he’d start with a birdie at the par-4 tenth – his first hole – but he’d give the shot back with a bogey at the next. A man who usually feasts on par-5s, it was the traditional scoring holes that proved his nemesis on the opening side as he double-bogeyed the 13th and bogeyed the 16th, parring the rest to turn at +3 for the day.
His second and final birdie of the day came at the par-4 second, but another double-bogey followed at the fourth, and he’d fail to make up any ground over the closing five holes, ultimately signing for a 76 to leave him tied for 100th place.
The low scores generally came from the early starters, with just four of the top 15 having later tee times on day one.
Frenchman David Ravetto and Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen set the early mark at -5, one ahead of Scot Connor Syme, with five players tied for fourth place at -3. Of the leading eight, only Julien Brun was out in the afternoon wave and just 50 of the 156-man field shot par or better. Also at -3 is Dutchman Joost Luiten who experienced an emotional high as he produced a stunning albatross at the par-5 13th, but also the low of recording a triple-bogey seven a few holes previous.
“It was a really nice morning,” Ravetto said afterwards. “The wake-up call was pretty hard but I played really solid golf in windy conditions and I’m really happy with my game.
“It’s a really nice track, it needs the wind because without the wind in nice conditions it will be… I won’t say easy but a bit easier.
“But with the wind it’s really nice to play, it’s really fun, some nice tee-shots to hit, nice second shots – a really nice track.
“I think my putting was really solid. The past few weeks it was not that good so I’m really happy with my putting this morning.”
Syme drew on his vast links experience to get the best out of his day. “It was very challenging,” he admitted after signing for a card that contained seven birdies. “There were a lot of tees moved up to make it a bit more playable for us, but it was tough.
“You had to keep your ball flight down and I used my experience from playing in Scotland by hitting a lot of low drivers and punched shots into the wind. Overall, I definitely made a few mistakes but a lot of good birdies as well.”
With a couple of players yet to complete their opening rounds, play is expected to begin as scheduled tomorrow and McKibbin will go off at 07:50 (09:50 Irish time) and will be hoping to make up some ground in the calmer conditions with the wind expected to pick up significantly again as the day progresses.
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