Johannesburg – Branden Grace opened with a four-under-par 69 to share the lead with Chris Swanepoel, Divan van den Heever and Riekus Nortje after the first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at the Links at Fancourt, in George, on Wednesday.
Grace, a three-time winner on the European Tour this year, was not entirely satisfied with his start to the tournament, the last of six in the Vodacom Origins series.
“I didn’t play that well, but I got it going,” said Grace, who along with his co-leaders was one stroke clear of Neil Schietekat and Ulrich van den Berg.
“The key on this course is to keep your misses in the right positions.”
Grace, already familiar with the course – he beat Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in a playoff for the Volvo Golf Champions in January – said he was enjoying his time back in George.
“I feel very relaxed,” he said.
“I’m obviously here to do a job and win, but I don’t see much of my friends and it’s great to get on the golf course and have a bit of a laugh with them.”
There was also a touch of irony in the fact that he was playing in a tournament celebrating the career of Retief Goosen.
“I’ve gotten to know Retief really well after I beat him and Ernie here in the Volvo Golf Champions,” Grace said.
“Retief has put a lot back into SA golf, and this series has been unreal.
“It gives a lot of opportunities for the Sunshine Tour pros.
“He’s a great guy, and a great ambassador for golf in South Africa.”
Swanepoel, meanwhile, said he had focussed more on enjoying his game this year than paying the bills, and it paid off with a share of the first-round lead.
“I got married four months ago, and while it’s great, you feel a lot of weight on your shoulders looking after a wife and a house and so on,” he said at the end of a round that began with two bogeys but then caught fire with a chip-in for birdie on the par-three eighth.
And Nortje clearly benefitted from his practice round with Grace.
“He took some money off me in the practice round, but it gave me the chance to ask a lot of questions,” Nortje said.
“He’s a good person to learn from.” – Sapa