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Veerman vaults into Johannesburg lead

Veerman vaults into Johannesburg lead

Johannes Veerman fired the lowest round of his fledgling European Tour career to take the first round lead at the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg.

Johannes Veerman

The American shot a brilliant bogey free 62 over the Bushwillow Course at Randpark Golf Club to get to nine under and lead the way by one from Italy's Nino Bertasio and home favourite JC Ritchie.

Branden Grace was then at seven under alongside two more South Africans in Toto Thimba Jnr and Rourke van der Spuy, Chilean Matias Calderon, England's Sam Horsfield and Greek Peter Karmis.

Veerman's Johannesburg joy was a far cry from just 54 days ago when he sat five over after two days at the Qualifying School and a long way from even having playing privileges on the European Tour.

Rounds of 67-67-66-66 secured him a place on Tour and he has not looked back since, securing two top tens in his first three events on the 2020 Race to Dubai.

His 62 on day one of the first event of the decade would have equalled Louis Oosthuizen's course record had preferred lies not been in place after heavy overnight rain, and Veerman was delighted with a round that saw him come home in 29.

"It was a good round of golf today," he said. "The course was set up to go low out there. The wind didn’t blow hard, the rough isn’t long and the greens were receptive, so there was a good number out there.

"I kept hitting a lot of good shots on the front nine but I didn’t make as many putts as I did on the back nine. On the back nine I made two long ones of 40-plus feet. I hit 17 greens today so that’s a lot of chances I had for birdie.

"I’ve been practising really hard over the last six or seven months and I’ve been getting better. To come out and start 2020 playing like this gives me a lot of confidence.

"It is only the first round but it is a step in the correct direction."

Veerman birdied the second and fifth but jumped into a share of the lead with a hat-trick of gains from the tenth.

He then burst clear of the field with a four birdie finish including a lovely chip and run on the 17th and an excellent approach to the last.

Bertasio birdied the first, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, 12th and 13th before an eagle from ten feet on the 17th handed him a share of the lead. A poor tee shot on the 18th then saw him close with a bogey.

Ritchie was bogey free in his opening round, picking up shots on the first, fifth, sixth, 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th and last.

Grace also came home in 31 as he posted the lowest round of the day on the Firethorn Course.

The Rolex Series winner birdied the first, fourth, 12th and 14th before holing a bunker shot on the next and making further gains on the 16th and 18th.

Van der Spuy holed out for an eagle at the 18th to pick up five shots in his last four holes, while Calderon and Karmis were bogey free in their rounds of 64.

Horsfield and Thimba were playing together and the home favourite dropped a single shot in his round, while Horsfield had a roller coaster with ten birdies and three bogeys.

Defending champion Oosthuizen was bogey free at six under in a group of 11 players including amateur playing partner Jayden Trey Schaper and another 18-year-old in AfrAsia Bank Mauritus Open champion Rasmus Højgaard.

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