David Drysdale flew out of the blocks on day one of the Africa Open before settling for a 2-under-par 34-36=70.
The Scot was the early leader after an eagle-3 at the first hole and, despite a bogey at the fourth, he kicked on again with birdies at five and six to reach 3-under. Drysdale, who has missed his last four cuts, went flat after that though and a run of pars to the clubhouse was only broken by a bogey at 13. But, as it stands, he's just three off leader Kevin Phelan and in position to post another good finish in this part of the world. The 39-year-old has two T6s and a T11 in his last four starts in South Africa.
Grégory Havret circled seven birdies in an opening 3-under-par 34-35=69 at the Africa Open to lie just two off the early clubhouse lead.
And yet the Frenchman may feel slightly disappointed that he didn't cash in further on a hot start. Havret raced to 4-under with par breakers at 3, 4, 6 and 7 before closing his front nine with a bogey to be out in 34. He added further birdies at 11, 15 and 16 but they were wiped out by bogeys at 12, 14 and 18. Nevertheless, the 2010 U.S. Open runner-up should be content overall given that he missed the cut here last year and has failed to cash in six of his last seven starts on South African soil. He's been solid so far in 2015, going 4-for-5 and posting a top 20 in the Dubai Desert Classic. With the morning wave just finishing off, Havret is currently T4, just two shots behind leader Kevin Phelan.
David Howell shook off the disappointment of last week's near-miss in Joburg by shooting a 4-under-par 33-35=68 in the first round of the Africa Open.
Howell's morning lap of East London GC put him in tied second spot and just one behind early leader Kevin Phelan, who finished alongside Howell in T2 at that Joburg Open. The Englishman traded a birdie with a bogey at 11 and 12 but circled par breakers at 14 and 17 to begin his move. East London has short par 5s at the 1st and 3rd and Howell cashed in with birdies at both to reach 4-under before ending with six straight pars. Although he held the lead in Joburg and couldn't convert last week, he did leave that event in positive mood having secured a spot in this summer's Open due to finishing in the top three. It looks like those good vibes are carrying over here.
Fresh off a T2 in the Joburg Open, Kevin Phelan is the early clubhouse leader at the Africa Open after a 5-under-par 34-33=67 on Thursday.
Phelan closed with a 66 to finish joint runner-up last week and continued his strong play at East London GC on day one. The Irishman started slowly with a bogey at 11 and four other pars before nailing back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16. He made another at the par-5 opening hole and reeled off three more at 5, 6 and 7 to jump to the top of the morning leaderboard. Phelan missed the cut on his debut in this event last year although didn't do much wrong, shooting 69-70.
A return to South Africa appears to have done the trick for Felipe Aguilar, who sits just three off the early lead on day one of the Africa Open.
The man from Chile has banked two third places in his previous three starts in the country and is positioned for another good finish here after carding a 2-under-par 35-35=70 in the first round. When he posted, that was just two off Richard Bland's early clubhouse lead and three behind Kevin Phelan, who was still out on the course. After a disappointing bogey-6 at the opening hole, Aguilar made his run with four birdies in six holes from the fifth. He gave a shot back at 11, his only other bogey of the day. The 40-year-old is 4-for-5 on the European Tour this year but a T23 in Qatar is his only finish inside the top 40.
Matt Fitzpatrick crafted a 3-under-par 34-35=69 to sit second in the clubhouse early on day one of the Africa Open.
It's been a rocky road for the young Englishman on the European Tour this season and an early exit in last week's Joburg Open was his fourth straight missed cut. Today, he kept mistakes to a minimum with just a single bogey on his card at 8. He birdied all three par 5s - 1, 3 and 15 - and added another par breaker at 7. Friday's have been the problem for the former U.S. Amateur Open champion so he'll have to guard against a dip in round two tomorrow. Fitzpatrick actually kicked off his 2015 campaign with a T5 in the South African Open so is in good position to try and match that after his strong opening 18 holes.
Richard Bland reaffirmed his liking for East London GC by posting the clubhouse lead on day one of the Africa Open.
The Englishman toured the par 72 in 4-under-par 35-33=68 to set the early mark in the fifth of the European Tour's six tournaments in South Africa this season. Bland, who finished T5 in this event last year, found his groove quickly with three birdies in the first six holes but then stumbled with bogeys at 9 and 11. It proved a temporary blip as he surged into top spot with birdies at 12, 14 and 15. The 32-year-old had good form coming in, with a T18 in Joburg last week and a T11 in Malaysia.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello will make a rare start on the PGA TOUR at this week's Puerto Rico Open.
RCB doesn't make it to America often, but he excels on the European Tour. His form is a little cool entering the week as he's finished outside the top 30 in each of his last five starts and currently ranks just 131st in the Race to Dubai. Cabrera-Bello finished T24 at this event last year and should strongly be considered by gamers this week.