South African Tim Clark shot a five under par 60 to hold the clubhouse lead midway through the delayed opening round of The Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa finally began.
After unseasonably heavy rainfall had flooded the course and delayed the tournament start by two days, Norway’s Espen Kofstad was able to hit the first shot of The 2013 Race to Dubai at 06.30am.
The 36 year old Clark had a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th in an outward 28 – all on par threes as the course par at Royal Durban was down to 65 as holes were shortened to take out some of the wettest areas.
The former Players Champion then birdied the 304 yard par four second before his only bogey of the day at the sixth, only to recoup his advantage with a pair of closing birdies.
That put the three-time European Tour winner one ahead of compatriot Lindani Ndwandwe, who had an eagle two at the second as well as six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey during an eventful morning.
“It wasn’t that easy out there, but I was amazed at how good the greens were with all the rain they had,” said Clark. “The greens were pretty firm and obviously great to putt.
“I made some good putts and that’s really what gives me this score. Obviously I gave myself a lot of chances, I made some good twos on some of those par threes.”
With the tournament reduced to 36 holes, Clark knows he cannot afford to take his foot off the gas in the second round.
“It’s just the same really, just come out and try to make birdies,” he added. “If it is going to be a two round tournament, you’ve got to go low.
“Normally you can sort of pace yourself, get to the weekend, play in the weekend and sneak home; but right now you’ve got to go as low as you can and be aggressive.”
Reggae fan Ndwandwe, who has won twice on the co-sanctioning Sunshine Tour, added: “In every tournament if you give yourself a good start you always have a chance. Getting a good start out there is always a boost to your confidence.”
As the afternoon session progressed England’s David Horsey and France’s Julien Quesne emerged as the main challengers to Clark’s position atop the leaderboard.
Two-time winner Horsey showed signs of a return to form with an outward 31 to be three under, while Quesne – who achieved a breakthrough victory in Spain last season – birdied four and bogeyed one of his first five holes.