JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Justin Harding signed for an opening three-under 67 in the first round of The Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club, in Sandwich, on Thursday.
As one of the morning starters, Harding found himself in a share of third by the time he finished his round.
Despite a double-bogey seven on the par five seventh which dropped him to one-over, the 35-year-old was able to rally with three birdies in his last five holes to bounce back into contention
“On 14, I hit two 3-woods and probably about 10 or 15 short of the green and hit lovely chip up there to a couple feet. On 15, I had a good up-and-down, short-sided myself, so that was nice, as well.
“On 16 and 17, rolled in I think they were probably 12 to 15-footers. Both were downhill, so that was fortunate. I battled a little bit on the uphill putts with the speed of the greens. Ultimately I was just quite happy getting in with a couple under. Three-under is a bonus. I would have been happy with one-under.”
In fact, after making the double on seven, Harding was able to immediately bounce back with birdie on the eighth and said he was pleased with the way he played overall.
“I hit one bad tee shot today and that was on 7, and it took me two to chip out and a bit of a mess from there on in.
“I thought bouncing back with a birdie on 8 kind of levelled it out, and I played solidly. Managed my ball quite nicely on the back nine, felt like the wind freshened up a little bit. I made a couple nice putts and ultimately sort of managed it pretty well.”
Harding is one of 13 SA players in the field this week, and said being part of such a strong group provided extra motivation.
“We've got a strong contingent and they're all capable of playing well. We had a good run earlier in the European Tour season and wouldn't it be nice if we could kick-start another one.”
Among the other SA morning starters, Christiaan Bezuidenhout carded a solid opening two-under 68, Dean Burmester shot level par 70, JC Ritchie carded one-over 71.
African News Agency (ANA)