In-form Sterne and Kieffer set a hot pace with opening 63s
South African Richard Sterne and Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer lead the way after the opening day at the Joburg Open yesterday.
The pair shot first-round 63s to sit together on eight under par at the top of the leaderboard, with Kieffer pegging Sterne back after the home favourite had raced off after being among the early starters.
Sterne, a 31-year-old who is making his way back in the game after long struggles with a back injury, came second in Dubai last week and clearly fancies a sixth European Tour title.
He played the West Course yesterday and has the East to tackle today, but has fond memories of it after winning this very event five years ago.
“I had three good rounds on the East Course that year. If I can do that now, I’ll have a chance on Sunday,” he said.
“Some days it feels good and everything kind of happens. Golf is a strange game and you have to hit the right shots at the right time. I hit 17 greens today and was never in trouble.”
Sterne signed for six birdies and an eagle on an unblemished day, while Kieffer also went round without dropping a shot. Eight birdies did the trick for him.
Norway’s Espen Kofstad would have joined them in an overnight share of the lead were it not for a horror final hole. He was tied with the pacesetters until a three-over-par seven on the West Course’s last threw him back down the leaderboard.
South Africa’s Bryce Easton is third, a hole-in-one helping him to an East Course record 65, while eight players are tied together on six under.
American Peter Uihlein and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren are the two non-South Africans in the group, while England’s Ross McGowan is on five under, along with 12 other players.
It was a bad day for England’s Richard McEvoy, though, who went round in eight over, one worse than compatriot Nick Dougherty and three worse than Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth.
Damien McGrane was best of the Irish following a five under par opening 66 on the West Course.
David Higgins shot a level par 71 there while Gareth Maybin shot a 74 on the East Course.