Matthew Baldwin and James Morrison one off the lead at Joburg Open
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 09/12/17 5:15pm
Matthew Baldwin and James Morrison made excellent starts to the Joburg Open as Keenan Davidse defied a recent illness to claim the first-round lead.
Davidse fired a superb 63 at Randpark Golf Club to earn the outright lead ahead of a group of six players, including Baldwin and Morrison, with the top seven players on the leaderboard all making their scores at the Bushwillow course.
South African Davidse, who has never finished higher than seventh in a European Tour event, carded nine birdies and just one dropped shot to close on eight under on an excellent day of scoring, with preferred lies in place following the torrential rain that restricted practice rounds and forced the cancellation of Tuesday's pro-am.
Davidse birdied five of the last eight holes, including a huge putt for a closing three at the 18th, and he explained afterwards that he spent four days in hospital with flu-like symptoms after he missed the cut in Mauritius last week.
"I'm obviously very happy," said the 28-year-old. "I've worked very hard. I went to Mauritius last week and didn't play too well. I was in hospital for about four days so I'm very chuffed today.
"When I played the Sunshine Tour event at Simola my little boy was sick with a bad chest. Then my wife had flu and then I got flu and lost a lot of weight. I couldn't deal with that and the heat in Mauritius so I checked myself into hospital for four days.
"I didn't really have any expectations coming into the week. I'm just out here to have fun, obviously, so I'm very blessed to be playing well. It's always nice leading a big tournament and especially the Joburg Open. I needed to play well today - it's a good feeling."
Baldwin got off to the perfect start with an eagle at the opening hole, and he made another eagle at the 12th before closing with two straight birdies to return a 64 which was later matched by English compatriot Morrison.
The two-time European Tour winner kept a bogey off his card and made three straight birdies on the front nine before picking up four shots in six holes after the turn to vault into the share of second place.
In-form South African Dean Burmester returned a flawless six-under 66 on the Firethorn course along with English journeyman Richard McEvoy, who made three birdies in four holes from the 10th and added an eagle at the 14th before carding his only bogey of the day at 16.
Nathan Kimsey, last season's champion at the Qualifying School Final stage, is also tied for eighth after he birdied four of the last seven holes on the Bushwillows layout to post a 65, but Mauritius Open champion Dylan Frittelli has ground to make up after a disappointing one-under 71.