DURBAN, South Africa – Alex Cejka took advantage of a defenseless Durban Country Club course to card an 8-under-par 64 and share the first-round lead of the 100th South African Open on Friday.
Cejka topped the leaderboard with two-time winner Retief Goosen, and they were one stroke clear of Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel.
“It’s quite a tricky course, but it’s not that long, especially when the wind’s not blowing,” Cejka said. “So I played quite smart with a lot of 3-irons off the tee, and a lot of 3-woods — you’ve got to have the ball in play.”
The first round was completed on Friday after the course became waterlogged after incessant rain on Thursday, when just two-and-a-half hours of play were possible.
The second round will be on Saturday, after which the cut will be made to 50 and ties, instead of the original 65. Those who make the cut will have to play 36 holes on Sunday to complete the championship.
The difference between Cejka and the others was that the German made no mistakes as the wind stayed away and made the course play even shorter than its 6,157 meters (6,733 yards).
Goosen made two bogeys in his 64, while Els and Schwartzel each dropped a single shot in their 7-under 67s.
Goosen, champion in 1995 and 2006, had two eagles in his round, on holes No. 18 and 3.
“I hit a perfect 3-wood on to the front edge of 18 and then holed a 25-footer,” he said. “And on 3, I hit a 3-wood and a 5-iron from 198 meters to about 10 feet in there.”
Els, a four-time winner, changed his mind about entering his national championship and started well, including a closing 31 which featured a chip-in for eagle on 13 and three birdies.
“I missed quite a few putts on the front nine and was getting a little annoyed with myself,” Els said. “But I played a really solid back nine.”
He and Schwartzel, winner of the Sunshine Tour money list, were a stroke clear of a group of six players on 66.
In that group was 2008 champ Richard Sterne, who has been out of action with back problems for the better part of the year and a lot of the previous year.
He looked his old self but for a brief wobble on the 17th when he dropped a shot with a streaky approach and three-putted. But seven birdies more than compensated.
Also at 6 under were Jaco Ahlers, Garth Mulroy and Tyrone van Aswegen, all of South Africa, England’s David Dixon and Spain’s Carlos Del Moral.
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen headed a group of 10 players on 65 after a bogey-free round.
Oosthuizen had a poor Alfred Dunhill Championship last week, missing the cut, even though his game started coming around in the second round there. He was concerned the break for rain this week would affect his momentum.
“When tournament directors and everyone is pushing you to get as many holes as possible you can play yourself out of the tournament right there,” he said.
Tim Clark, another two-time winner, was six shots off the pace.