Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Johannesburg, South Africa: Dutchman Tim Sluiter posted a superb 66 to lead the first round of The Open Championship’s International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Africa at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington today.
The 22-year-old closed the first day at six-under-par and took a one-stroke lead ahead of the final round as 51 players began the 36-hole battle for three coveted places at the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Sluiter said: “I played solidly and gave myself a lot of chances. If I keep the same approach tomorrow then I will be playing in The Open, which is really something.”
He started well and penciled in birdies at the first and second, kick-starting his campaign to play in golf’s oldest Major. After a run of four pars he birdied the seventh and reached the turn at three-under. He made a further pair of birdies at the 13th and 14th before closing out with a final birdie at the par-5 18th.
“I didn’t play attacking golf because of the wind, which forces you to stay out of trouble around this course. Part of the trick is to give yourself chances, and I did that today. My putting was on form and I chipped in at the seventh, so it was a solid round of golf,” he said.
“I feel comfortable on this course and my game is good. Hopefully tomorrow will be another good round and it will end sweetly,” said Sluiter.
Spaniard Jordi Garcia dropped a shot at the 15th, but peppered his round with six birdies to secure sole possession of second with a five-under-par 67.
“I played really well today and my putting was good, which helped me enjoy the day. Although it wasn’t my focus at the beginning of the season, to play in The Open is something special to me,” he said.
The 26-year-old made two birdies before the turn before picking up further shots at the 10th, 12th, 14th and 17th.
Speaking ahead of today’s play, Garcia, who is yet to play in The Open, was excited about the chance to follow in the footsteps of previous IFQ Africa qualifiers such as 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen. “It will be a dream to play in the The Open. It’s such a big tournament that I don’t really have words to describe what it will mean,” he said.
Finishing at four-under was Brazil’s top-ranked player, Adilson da Silva, who shot a solid 68 around the windy par 72 East course. “I had a good start and it was a good day, but the wind was swirling today, which made it tricky to find the right club.
“Tomorrow I will aim for a good score and stick with it. I have been lucky enough to play The Open twice before, and what an experience it is! Any time you can make it (to The Open) is really great.”
Canadian Andrew Parr continued his good form from the weekend’s Joburg Open, also played at Royal Johannesburg, to shoot 69 the finish the first round in fourth place. “I want to be out there and I’m having a great time. I’m feeling confident on this course and tomorrow I’m going to repeat my performance and hopefully make The Open,” he said.
However, it was not such a good day for some of the bigger names in the field such as South Africans James Kingston, who retired due to injury, and world number 80 Jaco Van Zyl, who shot a disappointing 78.



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