Rookies lead Challenge
NEDBANK Golf Challenge rookies Bill Haas and Nicolas Colsaerts hit the ground running here yesterday when they shared a one-shot lead at the completion of the first round.
They both shot two-under-par 70s. But when they tee off today, they will have to contend with a tightly bunched field, with three shots separating 11 players. South African Garth Mulroy had a disappointing 75.
Haas's father, Jay, is three off the pace in the seniors event being played simultaneously.
While Colsaerts was a model of consistency, with just a single bogey on the par-four eighth, Bill Haas had a more volatile time.
Five birdies and three drops provided the colour to a round in which the American had to quickly come to grips with the unforgiving kikuyu. The first line of punishment around the fairways here may look a lot like what he encounters in the US, but it acts very differently - as Haas found out.
Colsaerts played with great maturity and showed he was a quick learner around the challenging layout.
"I didn't use an aggressive game plan," he said. "On 17 I could have gone over bunkers off the tee. On some holes it is better to go with irons than lob a wedge out of the kikuyu."
The Belgian carded birdies on the 10th and 11th but never managed to kick on from there.
"I played better before that," he said about his gains after the turn. "The wind made things difficult because it was always coming from the side. It surprised me when I played my second shot on the 18th."
The pair are just one shot clear of Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Lawrie and defending champion Lee Westwood.
German Martin Kaymer was one of the early pacesetters, but his round lost steam with bogeys on the 13th and 14th. The latter hole proved a nemesis to half the field, all bar one in the bottom seven bogeying the 550m par-five.
Curiously, only Jeff Sluman in the Champions Challenge field slipped up there, but the more grizzled men did tee it up from a lot closer.
The only thing that mildly flustered Champions Challenge leader Bernhard Langer was the chilly blast from the interview room's air conditioner. The German politely asked for some intervention before he ran the rule over a blemish-free first round of 68.
"I hit the ball really well," the German said. "I gave myself lots of opportunities and kept out of trouble. I was disappointed with my putter. But it was a solid round. No bogeys and that's always fun. I played very well today."
Langer is three shots clear of Jay Haas, who carded a one-under 71, along with defending champion Mark Calcavecchia.