Lowly-ranked Nic Henning goes low with 62 at Joburg Open

South African player ranked joint last in the world opens with 62

South Africa’s  Nic Henning  plays his second shot to  the 15th green during the first round of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

South Africa’s Nic Henning plays his second shot to the 15th green during the first round of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

 

South Africa’s Nic Henning claimed a narrow lead after the opening round of the Joburg Open as home players dominated the top of the leaderboard at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Henning carding a nine-under-par 62 on the West Course – equalling the course record – to finish one shot ahead of compatriots Titch Moore and Tjaart van der Walt, as well as Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.

Dean Burmester and Garth Mulroy were a shot further back on seven under to make it five South Africans in the top seven, with Scotland’s Scott Henry and English pair Sam Hutsby and Simon Dyson part of an eight-strong group on six under.

Peter Lawrie kept up his promising start to the season to lead the Irish challenge on five under after an opening 66.

Henning has the worst world ranking possible, joint 1,555th, and admitted: “I haven’t made a score like that for many many years so it’s a really nice surprise.”

The 45-year-old raced to the turn in 29 with five birdies and an eagle and also birdied the 15th and 16th, but added: “Let me tell the truth; I hit my second at the first thin but it was straight at the hole, I holed a nice putt on the second and was lucky with a seven iron on the third, it went straight in the hole.”

The 210-strong field is split between the East and West Courses for the first two rounds, with the final 36 holes played on the tougher East Course.

Lawrie recorded his score on the West, opening with three straight birdies and carding seven in all during his round.

Waterford’s Kevin Phelan also had a hat-trick of birdies in a four-under 67 on the same course, with Gareth Maybin signing for a useful three-under 69 on the East Course.

New Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had to birdie the last two holes for a level-par 72 on the East after a front nine of 39 which featured four birdies, two double-bogeys, two bogeys and just one par.

Clarke has not recorded a top-10 finish on the European Tour since winning the British Open in 2011.

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