SA Open: Sam Horsfield just two off the lead after first-round 64
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 09/01/20 3:47pm
Sam Horsfield made a positive start to 2020 as he fired a seven-under 64 to lie two shots off the lead after the first round of the South African Open.
With a mammoth 240-player field split over two courses at Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg, Horsfield carded 10 birdies against three bogeys on the Bushwillow Course, where Qualifying School graduate Johannes Veerman snatched the outright lead after he opened with a 62.
Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen made a solid start with a 65, but it was a tough day for former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel as he laboured to a two-over 73 on the Firethorn Course which leaves him needing something special on day two to avoid a missed cut.
American Veerman was just two under at the turn before surging into the clubhouse lead with a sensational back-nine 29 which he capped with four consecutive birdies, continuing his excellent start to the new European Tour season having already notched two top-10s in his three starts so far.
Nino Bertasio looked primed to end the day tied for the lead when he eagled the 17th, but the Italian then dropped his only shot of the round at the last as he settled for a 64 and a share of second with JC Ritchie.
Horsfield had only two pars on the outward nine as he mixed five birdies with two bogeys before beginning the inward run with three consecutive birdies, and he picked up two more at the final two holes following another blemish at the 16th.
The former protege of Ian Poulter was joined on seven under by five other players including Branden Grace, who is looking to climb back up the world rankings having slipped to 127th after one of the worst years of his career in 2019.
Grace birdied five of the last seven holes to join the share of fourth place, one ahead of compatriots Oosthuizen and George Coetzee, who was eight under with three to play when he got into trouble at the 16th and ran up a double-bogey six.
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The English trio of Marcus Armitage, Harry Hall and Matthew Baldwin also fired commendable 65s on the Firethorn layout, with former Ryder Cup star Andy Sullivan one further off the pace.