DURBAN (Reuters) - Retief Goosen and Alex Cejka were locked at the top of a congested leaderboard after the opening round of the South African Open at Durban Country Club on Friday.
Both men fired eight-under-par 64s to take a one-shot lead over the South African duo of world number 12 Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel.
Six players were tied a further shot back, on six-under, and there were 10 players on five-under, including British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Goosen was the first to take advantage of benign conditions at the coastal course, with a round that included six birdies and two eagles.
The South African resumed on two-under-par through four holes after most of the first day’s play was washed out, and he made his intentions clear with a birdie on the first hole of the day, the 527-yard par-five 14th.
The 41-year-old dropped a shot on 17 but more than made up for the lapse with an eagle on the par-four 18th. His tee shot found the front edge of the green before the two-time SA Open champion nailed the long putt.
Despite the flourish, Goosen, ranked 17 in the world, said his iron play had underpinned his round.
“My driving could have been better and I missed a few fairways out there, but I hit a lot of iron shots close, which made putting a little bit easier,” he told a news conference.
Germany’s Cejka turned in a bogey-free round as he picked up four birdies on each nine to put himself in contention.
The 40-year-old said his decision to play conservatively on the narrow course had paid dividends.
“I just played smart with a lot of three irons and three woods off the tees because it is a tricky course,” he told reporters.
Els, the four-time SA Open champion, found his rhythm on the back nine, shooting three birdies and an eagle.
“I missed a few putts on the front nine and was getting a little annoyed with myself,” Els said. “Hopefully that back nine will give me a lot of confidence for the weekend.”
In an effort to make up for time lost to rain, organisers decided to move the cut line from 65 and ties to 50 and ties after Saturday’s round. They will also attempt 36 holes on Sunday to avoid a Monday finish.
Editing by Stephen Wood