A superb course record 63 on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club moved Andrew McLardy into pole position after the first round of the inaugural Joburg Open, the seventh tournament on The 2007 European Tour International Schedule.
The nine under par effort, which featured a stunning back nine of only 29 shots, gave the South African – whose parents hail from Helensburgh in the west of Scotland – a one shot advantage over fellow countrymen Warren Abery and Mark Murless, who both opened with tidy 64s.
But the day belonged to McLardy who has won five times on the Sunshine Tour in his native country but who has yet to taste victory on The European Tour, the closest being a share of second place in the 2005 Madeira Island Open Caixa Geral de Depositos.
In a bid to put that right the 32 year old, who celebrates his 33rd birthday next Saturday, started strongly with three birdies in his first four holes, but a dropped shot on the fifth saw him out in two under par 34.
However it was turning for home that the fireworks truly began for the player who finished 96th on the 2006 Order of Merit.
As with his outward half, McLardy carded three birdies in the first four holes turning for home but it was eagle threes at both the 535 yard 15th and the 494 yard 18th holes which put the icing on the cake.
The three on the 18th was a fine way to finish but it was the three on the 15th which proved to be McLardy’s most remarkable hole of the day especially considering his tee shot landed directly behind an oak tree.
Initially, making a birdie or par might have seemed a tall order but McLardy made light of the circumstances in which he found himself, hooking a sensational recovery shot around the timber which rolled delightfully to within three feet of the hole.
“I scrambled well on the front nine and was lucky to get away with everything that I attempted,” he said. “But I changed my rhythm on the back nine and things went a lot better. I was delighted with the two eagles to finish and with my back nine as a whole – even though I’ve shot 29 on the course before.”
Joint second placed Abery produced a flawless opening to his tournament, six birdies and an eagle at the 18th helping him to a 64, a score matched by Murless, who notched seven birdies and an eagle at the ninth to offset his only dropped shot of the day, at the seventh.
At 7085 yards long, and with a par of 72, it was little surprise that the majority of the leading scores on the opening day were posted on the West Course when compared to the demanding 7590 yard, par 71 East Course where the second half of the field began their tournament.
However, it did put into perspective the excellent start made by Italian Edoardo Molinari, who moved into a share of fourth place overall with a superb seven under par 64 on the East Course, the winner of the 2005 US Amateur Championship not dropping a shot all day and posting seven birdies in total, including one at both the 17th and 18th holes.
For the second round on Friday, all 200 players will swap courses with the top 70 and those tied for 70th place qualifying to complete the final two rounds over the East Course on Saturday and Sunday.