Robert Rock produced a solid start at the Alfred Dunhill Championship after signing for a three under par 69, but the Englishman was left somewhat frustrated that a cold putter prevented an even lower score at an increasingly-warm Leopard Creek.
Rock, who has consistently performed well in the event having accrued three top ten finishes and only once placed outside of the top 20 since the tournament moved to the stunning venue in 2004, got off to a fast start in his bid to improve upon the runner-up spot he picked up in December 2008.
After starting from the tenth tee, the Lichfield man holed a 52 degree wedge from 102 yards for a spectacular eagle at the par four 11th, but after finding the water with his approach at the 15th Rock dropped a shot to slip back to level par for the day.
From thereon-in, and despite gains at the long 18th and par four sixth, the 35 year old was left with mixed emotions following his opening 18 holes after unswervingly accurate approach play on his homeward nine went continually unrewarded.
“I’m actually disappointed overall; I played quite nicely and haven’t holed a putt,” said Rock, who finished 33rd in The 2012 Race to Dubai after a season that yielded his second professional victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
“To hole my second for eagle was a pretty cool start and then it was more of cruise the rest of the round from there.
“I hit some nice shots but missed a lot of putts. I was in good position there and hit the second shot into the water – one of the poorer shots of the day – but to be honest the rest of it was pretty good.
“I had lots of chances on the front nine to make some more birdies and missed them all, but such is the game.”
With some favourable pin locations and superb weather in Mpumalanga on Thursday, Rock said he expected to be four or five shots back come the close of round one but still looked on the bright side and targeted a more productive day on the greens on Friday.
He continued: “I would have thought someone will have a seven or eight under in them today but if they don’t then I’ve had a result. The flags are well positioned, some of the tees have been moved up a little bit and there’s pretty much no wind so today was a good opportunity.
“But I can take the positives, though, I plotted my way around well and hit some iron shots reasonably close – to the extent I could’ve realistically expected to hole at least three or four more and that would’ve made it a great day.
“That doesn’t happen for four days generally, though, so hopefully tomorrow I can dig in, produce a similar performance but make it count this time.”