The Irish trio of Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Paul Dunne produced a very mixed bag on day one of the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa.
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Lowry returned the best score of the three but found himself back pedalling when he doubled his second hole and dropped a shot at his fourth. He birdied his fifth but gave back on his eighth to make the turn in two-over par.
He then got back to level par with birdies at his 11th and 14th holes before a third bogey at his 15th ahead of a closing birdie for his 72.It handed the Clara man a seven-way share of 32nd place.
Harrington and Dunne each carded two-over par 74s, both struggled early. Harrington had birdied the first but was two-over after six holes after bogeys at two and three and then doubling the sixth.
Harrington, coming off a superb fourth place in Turkey, then completed his closing dozen holes in one-under.
Dunne was off to a horror start in his first Nedbank Challenge reluctantly banking three straight unwanted bogeys to be three-over after as many holes. The reigning British Masters champ then grouped with six straight pars and completing his back nine in one-under for a similar 74.
The second-round re-draw sees Harrington and Dunne out in the same grouping.
Lowry’s level par 72 left him trailing five shots behind Austrian giant, Bernd Wiesberger who posted a five-under 67 in hot but windy conditions on the Gary Player designed course.
The Vienna-born Wiesberger birdied his last to break clear of four players – Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, American Julian Suri, local South African hero, Branden Grace and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson – tied in second with four under par 68s.
Weisberger, 32 earlier this year captured a fourth Tour title with victory in the Shenzhen International and more recently he returned to China to secure a share of ninth in the WGC – HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.
“I played well in Shanghai and it was conditions that I kind of prefer but then last week in Turkey I couldn’t quite keep up with the pace,” he said.
“Last week was a course where you need to make a lot more birdies and I didn’t quite do that last week so it got a bit frustrating.
“I just tried to clear my mind and was ready to go this week. I had a lot of rest time.
“I just tried to focus on the time when I was working on my game and not get too much into the heat and conserve energy for the four days out here, and it kind of paid off today for me.”
Sweden’s and defending champion, Alex Noren had capped his round with an eagle ‘3’ at the 10th but let slip joining those in second place with a 17th hole bogey to settle for a four-way share of sixth with a three-under par 69.
Fortunately, Noren managed to avoid any menacing crocodiles after an errant shot during a pre-tournament practice round came to rest nestled under the jaw of the huge man-eating sleeping reptile.
Lowry teed-up buoyed by last week’s Turkish Airlines showing, and despite letting slip victory to finish sixth, the Clara golfer was clearly expecting similar good tidings in South Africa.