Thursday, 14 January 2016
David Howell  (Getty Images)
David Howell (Getty Images)

David Howell was delighted with his performance on the West Course at Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club as he claimed a share of second place in the first round of the Joburg Open.

The West layout is generally considered less testing than the East with the 210-man field playing both over Thursday and Friday before those who make the cut play the East twice over the weekend.

Despite that conventional wisdom, Justin Walters set the pace on day one, firing a seven under par 65 on the East Course with Howell, fellow Englishman Anthony Wall, Swedish duo Michael Jonzon and Johan Carlsson, South African Haydn Porteous and Zimbabwean Mark Williams all a shot behind.

Howell started with a five under round on the West Course last year on his way to finishing two shots behind eventual winner Andy Sullivan and was happy to have played that layout first again.

You always want to get a low start if you play the West first, you can feel under pressure going out there trying to make the cut - David Howell

"It's a big field this week, so all the guys playing the West want to get off to a nice start.

"You've got to make hay while the sun shines out here and that is definitely the easier of the two courses, so I'm delighted with my 66. No bogeys which was really the story of the day and all-in-all I played really nicely.

"I'd struggled with this tournament the two previous times I'd come to play and I didn't come for a few years, but then last year things turned around nicely for me and I just played well. You can draw upon that and as soon as I drove through the gates this week, it was nice to be back.

"I can remember some of the really good shots I hit during last year's tournament and all those little positives can add up. You've still got to go out there and hit all those shots, it doesn't make you play well, but it's certainly nice to be back and that's always a good start."

Wall also played the West Course on Thursday but unlike his countryman, the 40 year old does not believe Friday's round will present a vastly more difficult challenge.

"It's always funny playing two different courses," he said. "I think they're actually quite similar. You get a few low ones on them both, but by and large you seem to shoot something similar on them.

"I think they're two great golf courses and it's always a super week."

Jonzon does not currently have his card and was the last man to make it into the tournament but has two European Tour victories at the 1997 Portuguese Masters and the 2009 CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar.

The 43 year old has not played competitively since finishing 36th at Qualifying School and has not featured on The European Tour since the D+D REAL Czech Masters in August.

So not only was he delighted with his performance, he was delighted to be back.

"I only found out I got into the tournament on Sunday so I flew down Sunday night and landed Monday. Tuesday was the first time I played nine holes on the West," he said. "That was all my strength could cope with that day.

"I know the course because I've been here before, so that's not a problem. It was just to get used to the distance, the altitude and I've only been indoors hitting into a net, so I've seen the ball fly maybe five metres.

"I think in a way it helps me because I don't have any expectations. I've just gone out here to enjoy playing a week where it's cold winter at home. Obviously it's a wonderful feeling to hit the ball where you want to.

"My category is way down this year on the main tour in Europe. So for me this is a great bonus to come out and play a nice tournament, so we'll see come Saturday how the goal changes."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1PORTEOUS, HaydnRSA15-17
T2ÅKESSON, BjörnSWE18-15
T2WALTERS, JustinRSA18-15
T2IM, DanielUSA17-15
T2WALL, AnthonyENG17-15
T2LOMBARD, ZanderRSA15-15

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