Conor Purcell is just one shot off the early lead on five-under after an opening round of 67 at the Bain’s Whiskey Cape Town Open in South Africa.
A golf course Purcell knows well after a T7 finish last year, he roared out of the traps with a front nine of 31 and then held his score with a bogey and a birdie on the back nine to trail Bradley Bawden and Tapio Pulkannen by the minimum.
Playing from back to front, the Portmarnock man eagled the par-5 11th before birdies on 12, 14 and 18 saw him move to five-under-par before the wind got up on the finishing stretch.
“Pleasant to start off that way, this is my first event of the year so didn’t really know what to expect after the winter break,” said Purcell who missed out on a DP World Tour card at November’s Grand Final.
“Got off to a nice start, gave myself plenty of chances and made plenty of birdies on the front nine which was the back nine. The actual front nine was tricky and it got a bit windy coming in.
“I kept it in position off the tee, I remember from last year keeping it in play was key here, gave myself plenty of looks inside 20-foot and the putter was hot which was good.”
Making his first start of the new Challenge Tour season, the 26-year-old was pleased with how he managed his game off the tee to set up good chances for birdie.
“You can’t overpower it, you need to keep it in play, be smart on certain tee boxes, a couple you can’t hit driver off so for the most part I did a good job. That’s the key, hitting from this grass off the fairway you have a lot of control, if you’re off the fairway you don’t quite know what the ball will do.
“The wind was bizarre, it was so extreme, some holes felt into the wind when it was actually down wind and the opposite then so it was about getting a handle on it which was the hardest part. If I do the same tomorrow I will be happy out.”
Jonathan Caldwell is on two-under-par after a round of 70. The Clandeboye man played little to no golf over the winter with several off course commitments to sort out as well as battling tennis elbow since January but he was pleasantly surprised to end the day in red figures.
“Bit scrappy really, didn’t play particularly great, holed a couple of nice putts. Shaking off a bit of rust so I’m quite pleased with the score,” said Caldwell who will be icing his arm before the second round.
“The winter was busy, not a lot of golf, the weather was poor, lots of things to do like moving houses and then an injury in January so no golf. Quite surprised to shoot under-par to be honest!
“I didn’t get too greedy, missed some fairways and took my medicine and then I held some nice putts which kept the momentum going. It’s quite demanding off the tee, there wasn’t too much wind thankfully so it’s about finding fairway and from there you can score, if you miss them you’re chipping out or laying short of the greens.”
Dermot McElroy is one-under after a round of 71 with Mark Power a shot further back as he ground out a level-par round on his season debut as he begins his first full campaign as a professional.
“I was very rusty, I haven’t played competitively in a while, since Australia in November so it was a bit of a struggle. I grinned it well and found the wind quite gusty which was a struggle. Hopefully a better one tomorrow,” said the Kilkenny man.
Gary Hurley is on four-over-par.