Friday, 19 March 2010
South African Airways Open - Round One  (Getty Images)
South African Airways Open - Round One (Getty Images)

Paraguay`s Fabrizio Zanotti holds a one shot lead at the South African Open Championship after a “close to perfect” opening eight under par 64 at Pearl Valley Golf Estates.

That was enough for the 25 year old to end the first day a shot clear of European Tour Qualifying School Winner Oskar Henningsson, who made nine birdies and two bogeys in his round of 65..

No fewer than eight players are hot on Henningsson`s heels at six under, with Keith Horne, Gareth Maybin, Ross McGowan, Åke Nilsson, Richie Ramsay, Rory Sabbatini, Jaco Van Zyl and Lee Westwood all signing for rounds of 66.

Paraguay`s Zanotti picked up four shots on the way out but the 25 year old dropped a stroke at the 386 yard tenth.

However, he picked up five shots on the way in to finish his first round a shot clear of the field.

He said: “That was pretty close to perfect. I played great - I have been playing great since Qualifying School and I am feeling good.

“I am very happy with my game at the moment - it was good, the long game and the chipping and putting so I am very happy.

“This is a great tournament. The players are being so well looked after and there is a lot of history and tradition here. The golf course is great as well so I am very comfortable here.

“I am playing with a lot more confidence since Qualifying School. I had a bad season on Tour before that but I managed to change a few things with my posture and it is working very well for me now.”

Henningsson started at the tenth and reached the turn in two under thanks to a birdie at the 18th, before he picked up six further shots on the way in.

Northern Ireland`s Maybin - beginning his first full season on The European Tour - could have held a slice of the lead but for a double bogey six at the ninth, his last hole.

“I hit a poor tee shot and went in the left bunker,” he explained.

“I had a reasonable lie but couldn't bounce it very far, probably got a little greedy and went in the rough and had to hack out and chip on and two putt.”

Up until then the Challenge Tour graduate had accumulated eight birdies in his ascent of the leaderboard.

“I played well all day, tee to green, putted well,” he added.

“When I did miss a green, I got it up and down. All in all my game is in pretty good shape.”

South African Sabbatini - looking to continue the fine record home players have at the world's second oldest Open Championship - carded three birdies on the way out and another trio on the back nine without dropping a shot.

“The wind, it was out early and died off,” he said.

“All things considered, it's a great day out there. The course is in great condition and really prepared nicely and set up nicely. There are some low scores out there if you can control the golf ball.”

McGowan`s bogey free round contained four birdies and an eagle three at the par five fifth.

And the Englishman admitted he was delighted to be amongst the early pace setters after missing the cut at the same event last year.

“Last year I got caught up by the wind on the Thursday morning. I shot an 82 then and I guess this has evened it out nicely,” said McGowan, who played the back nine first on day one.

“I started off with seven pars but then picked up nicely. It (the eagle on the fifth) was a nice turning point that lifted me up the leaderboard quite quickly.”

World Number Ten Westwood was another to produce a steady bogey free round, with three birdies either side of the turn.

“I drove the ball lovely,” said the Englishman.

“I missed one fairway, the second, by about four feet but wasn't far and it was a good line into the flag. It was down the side and hanging up. I was aggressive with the golf course, hit a lot of drivers and irons and rescues. 

“I like the golf course. I've always liked playing Jack's golf courses. You can play them conservatively but you are obviously going to have the opportunities to attack the flag. So if you have a good, straight yard, then you can hit driver and get an advantage. I did that, putted quite nicely, got it on line well and made the ones that mattered.”

Horne looked set to take a share of the lead when he completed the first 16 holes of his round in seven under par.

But a double bogey six at the penultimate hole saw him drop back, only for him to finish with a birdie at the par five last.

Another South African, Van Zyl, posted seven birdies and a bogey while Swede Nilsson recovered from a seven at the third to card eight birdies in his round.

Scotland`s Ramsay went out in a four under par 32 before eagling the fifth on the way in.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1STERNE, RichardRSA18-14
T1MAYBIN, GarethNIR18-14
T3WESTWOOD, LeeENG18-13
T3ELS, ErnieRSA18-13
T3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-13
T6FINCH, RichardENG18-12
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