Merrick Bremner (Getty Images)
Merrick Bremner equalled the course record to lead after the first day of the SA Open Championship, then admitted he did so adopting a ‘conservative’ approach.
The South African, who is hoping to become the third successive winner of this tournament to hail from the Rainbow Nation, following previous champions Hennie Otto and Ernie Els, made light work of the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate’s front nine, picking up three shots on the first four holes before a trio of birdies followed at the seventh, eighth and ninth.
“I made the turn and started thinking a bit more and playing clever golf rather than showing too much aggression,” he conceded.
“I wanted to hold my round together and post a decent score, and not come in with five or four under. So I played more conservatively.”
While Bremner may have reined in his aggression, further gains were made on the par five 11th and 16th as he carded 64 to finish on eight under par, two clear of the chasing pack.
He added: “I've just got to take the positives out of playing great, try not to think about my lead, and keep doing what I'm doing."
While nobody could quite match Bremner's exploits, several of his fellow countrymen remained in touching distance at the top of the leaderboard.
Matthew Carvell was two shots back, Alex Haindl was three away while 2011 Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel, Darren Fichardt and Michiel Bothma were among the throng at four under.
Carvell, playing in his debut SA Open Championship, said: “I'm just trying to enjoy the experience and see what happens. It's nice to know I can compete with some world-class players in this field."
Henrik Stenson and Craig Lee were also in contention, with both coveting low scores for different reasons this week.
Swede Stenson began the tournament ranked 59th in The Race to Dubai standings with only the top 60 qualifying for next week's The DP World Tour Championship.
He fired an opening round 66, which included an eagle at the par four 17th after a booming drive, to finish two behind Bremner.
Scot Lee wants a good performance as he bids to finish inside the top 119 to confirm his card for The European Tour next year, and he came through an up and down round to finish on five under.