Despite wet and windy conditions on the opening day of the Volvo Golf Champions, the locals were entertained by some superb shotmaking from two of their heroes, Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen.
The Major winning duo battled through the worst of the weather in Durban to post rounds of 68, and so end the first day of the elite 33-man event in a tie for second place – three shots off the scorching pace set by the runaway leader Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.
In contrast to Oosthuizen, who opened with a bogey, Els started like a train, notching three successive birdies before his charge was derailed by a card-wrecking double bogey at the par three fourth hole.
But the reigning Open Champion remained unflustered, rallying with birdies at the seventh, ninth and tenth holes to make inroads into Jaidee’s lead.
A bogey at the tough 11th hole was no disgrace – his compatriot Darren Fichardt ran up an eight, and there were two sixes on a day when the Durban Country Club bared its teeth – and a closing birdie brought a smile to the face of the 43 year old, who was also amused by the prodigious length off the tee of his playing partner, Nicolas Colsaerts.
He said: “It was my first time, and I loved playing with him. I’ve played with Bubba [Watson] and [Dustin] Johnson, and these guys just bomb it 40 yards further than any of us. It’s quite exciting when they take their driver out. These guys hit it in places you’ve never seen before.
“Take the third hole. I’ve been coming here since ’86, I think, and I’ve never seen anyone hit it anywhere close to where he [Colsaerts] did. It’s like he’s playing a different game.”
Despite admitting to feeling rusty after the festive break, Oosthuizen found some form late in his round, as the 2010 Open Champion mixed seven birdies with three bogeys to join his friend and compatriot on four under par.
He said: “I started hitting the ball well the last few holes, but it was tough. I just wanted to find fairways and greens and give myself some opportunities, but that was easier said than done in those conditions.
“You couldn’t even put up an umbrella, because the rain was actually coming in underneath it, so that didn’t really help. From the 14th in, it was straight into the wind, and the rain started coming down big time there then. So those last five holes were especially tough, but I managed to get through them unscathed.”