Home hope Jaco van Zyl sets early pace in SA Open as Ernie Els stutters

07 January 2016 10:53

South Africa's Jaco van Zyl set an imposing clubhouse target in the BMW SA Open as tournament host Ernie Els suffered another attack of the dreaded yips at Glendower.

Els had been three over par with three holes to play before reviving his chances of a sixth victory in his national open with a birdie on the seventh and an eagle on the par-five eighth.

However, the four-time major winner then three-putted the ninth, his final hole, to card a one-over-par 73, the 46-year-old's par putt from 18 inches not even touching the hole.

Els missed two similar putts in the space of a month towards the end of last season and admitted at the time he did not want to watch the first of them, during the Dunhill Links Championship, after it went viral on the internet.

''I knew what it felt like and it was a thing of disaster," Els said at the time. ''If anybody has ever seen the yips, that was the perfect yip stroke. In the game of golf, you're going to do some silly things when you play it long enough and I had my moment there. Hopefully I won't have too many of those again.''

Compatriot Van Zyl had no such concerns as he looked to add a first European Tour title to his 13 wins on the Sunshine Tour, the world number 65 firing an eagle, six birdies and one bogey to card an opening 65.

"I had a couple of weeks off spending time with the family and had my share of whisky and Christmas pudding so it was really nice to get off to a good start," Van Zyl said.

"It was not like I was holing it from everywhere. I hit a couple close early on, managed to capitalise there and just kept it together the last few holes."

At seven under par, Van Zyl held a one-shot lead over fellow South African Shaun Norris, with Argentina's Tani Goya two shots further back.

Ireland's Paul Dunne had been forced to withdraw with a stomach complaint before the first round in Johannesburg, where players and caddies were wearing black ribbons in tribute to Christy O'Connor Jnr, whose death was announced on Wednesday.

Source: PA