Matt Ford fired five birdies and kept a bogey off his card to share the first-round lead at the Africa Open with Kevin Phelan.
Playing in the afternoon wave, Ford compiled a 5-under-par 32-35=67 on his opening circuit of East London GC to match Phelan's morning target. The pair are a shot clear of a five-man bunch which includes last week's runner-up David Howell. The Englishman began with a run of five pars but then got hot with birdies at 15, 16 and 18. Further birdies at 6 and 7 moved him into joint first spot and he stayed there with a pair of closing pars. Ford is 3-for-3 in South Africa this season so clearly enjoys this part of the European Tour schedule. He's making his debut in this event.
Launched by an eagle-3 at the opening hole, Eduardo De La Riva composed a 4-under-par 34-34=68 in the first round of the Africa Open.
The Spaniard's impressive lap came in the afternoon session at East London GC and put him just one shot off the pace set by Kevin Phelan. He actually hit the leader's score of 5-under after just eight holes by adding to his opening eagle with birdies at 3, 5 and 8. A double bogey-6 at the ninth halted his charge although he did respond with a birdie at 10 before reeling off eight straight pars. It was hard to see this round coming. De La Riva has missed both previous cuts in this event and is just 2-for-5 on the European Tour this year with nothing better than a T40.
Tom Lewis enjoyed a 3-under-par 33-36=69 in the first round of the Africa Open at East London GC to put himself in the top 10.
This was the eighth time in his last nine rounds that he's shot 70 or lower so the young Englishman is very much in a groove. Today's lap, which started at the 10th, featured birdies at 15 and 18 as he played his opening nine in 2-under. He mixed three birdies with two bogeys after that to slot in just two shots behind leader Kevin Phelan of Ireland. Lewis missed the cut here on his only appearance in 2013 but is coming off a pair of top 25s in Joburg and Thailand.
John Parry authored an opening 4-under-par 36-32=68 on the first day of the Africa Open to put himself just one shot off the pace.
It was something of a roller-coaster for the Englishman, who followed a double bogey-6 at the fourth hole with an eagle-2 at the fifth. Parry also found birdies at 1 and 9 on the front and surged late on with further par breakers at 13, 15, 16 and 18. Two of his birdies were followed by bogeys but he kept his round going strongly to end just one stroke behind leader Kevin Phelan. Parry is known for his inconsistency and is only 1-for-4 in this event although that was a T17 in 2013. He missed the cut in Joburg last week but that followed a pair of top 20s in India and Thailand.
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.