CAPE TOWN – Brandon Stone was the in-form South African golfer going into the Open Championship at Carnoustie, but it was Erik van Rooyen who took the clubhouse lead on Thursday.
In a great first day for South Africa at the 147th edition in Scotland, Van Rooyen shot a four-under-par 67 on the links course to take an early advantage.
The 28-year-old made a birdie-birdie start, and went out on three-under 33 on the front nine.
Van Rooyen – who hails from Bellville in the Cape, but attended University of Minnesota in the US – gained further shots on the 11th and 15th holes.
He looked on course for a five-under finish, but dropped a shot at the last to come home with a 67 on the par-71 course.
Van Rooyen was later pushed into joint-second by American Kevin Kisner, who produced a five-under 66.
Stone continued his hot streak after shooting a round of 60 to win the Scottish Open last week, as he came up with four birdies and a bogey for a three-under-par 68.
Van Rooyen soon had a fellow South African on the same score, as Zander Lombard also bagged a 67.
The 23-year-old Lombard came out booming on the front nine with a four-under 32, but lost momentum at the turn with a bogey on the 10th hole.
He managed to regain the lost shot on the 14th, but was unable to join Kisner at the top of the leaderboard.
American Justin Thomas was one of the few big guns to make a move, as he was three-under through 10 holes at the time of writing.
Tiger Woods opened with a birdie a short while ago, while Louis Oosthuizen (one-over 72) and Ernie Els (two-over 73) had disappointing starts.
Latest South African Scores:
-4 Erik van Rooyen (through 18 holes), Zander Lombard (18)
-3 Brandon Stone (18)
Even: Dylan Frittelli (6)
+1 Louis Oosthuizen (18)
+2 Ernie Els (18), Charl Schwartzel (16), Branden Grace (10)
+3 Retief Goosen (18), Shaun Norris (18)
+4 George Coetzee (18)
+5 Jovan Rebula (amateur, 12)