SA's Blaauw 'irons' out problem to lead Joburg Open

Jacques Blaauw of South Africa hits his tee shot.

AFP/Stacy Revere

JOHANNESBURG - South African Jacques Blaauw ditched a plan to use new irons at the Joburg Open, and his decision was rewarded Friday when he fired a 63 for the halfway lead.

Rounds of 66 and 63 gave the 34-year-old a total of 129, 13 under par for the European Tour/Sunshine Tour event at Randpark Golf Club in suburban Johannesburg.

Seeking a first European Tour triumph, Blaauw is one shot ahead of 20-year-old South African big-hitter Wilco Nienaber, who followed up an opening-round 63 with a 67.

Nienaber had been the talk of the tournament Thursday after a 437-yard (401.5-metre) tee shot drew comparisons with American long hitter Bryson DeChambeau.

READ: Nienaber hits monster 401m drive

A mid-afternoon storm delayed play for 110 minutes and fading light prevented a few golfers from completing their rounds with Dane Joachim Hansen 10 under and South African Shane Norris nine under.

"I have been practising with a new set of irons but, on the range this week, I said to my coach that I did not feel quite right with them," said Blaauw.

"So, I went back to the older set and I am obviously glad I did. I am hitting my irons very well and my putter is hot.

"The greens are quick, but not too quick. They are likely to get quicker during the next two rounds with cooler weather predicted.

"The fairways are very narrow and I did not land on as many as I would have liked. However, when I had bad lies I was able to get out of them."

READ: Joburg Open heralds return of international golf to SA

An eye-catching figure in a predominantly lime green outfit, Blaauw had a four birdie-one bogey front nine before sinking a 40-foot eagle putt at 14, and he also birdied three back-nine holes.

Nienaber, whose first round driving average of 416.5 yards was 85 yards longer than the average of the other competitors, was formidably long again Friday, but less accurate.

His four birdie-one bogey front nine matched that of Blaauw, but he was less impressive than the leader on the inward trek as he carded two birdies and a bogey.

Praise for Nienaber continues, though, with TV commentator and former professional Dale Hayes calling him an "unbelievable talent with all the shots".

The Joburg Open is the first of three straight European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments in South Africa before the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai from December 10 to 13.

Source
AFP