SOUTH African JC Ritchie made the ideal start to the defence of his Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open title, carding a six-under-par 66 to lead by one shot after the opening round of the R2 million Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event at Royal Harare Golf Club yesterday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The 25-year-old golfer, who plays out of the Pretoria-based Els Club Copperleaf, made seven birdies in a flawless round, which lifted him a shot clear of the fellow countrymen Martin Rohwer and Andrew van der Knaap, who both carded opening rounds of 67.
Ritchie’s brilliant start yesterday was a complete contrast from last year when he made a quintuple-bogey nine on the opening hole of the first day before rallying back to snatch the coveted title.
“I always love coming back here, it’s like my home club and today I started with an absolutely stunning round, the greens are so good as always and I was putting really amazing. I’m really happy with what he got today and not making a nine on my first hole like last year.
A win at this year’s event would see Ritchie emulating World Golf Hall of Famer Price, who remains the only player to have won two successive Zimbabwe Open titles – a feat he achieved in 1998 and he reckons he’s a got a good chance.
“I definitely puts me in a strong start to defend my title, like I said I love the golf course and I feel at home and I feel like a know the greens like the back of my hand, I’m just going to go out there and keep having fun,” he said.
Seasoned South African professional Trevor Fisher Jnr, who lost to Ritchie on the second playoff hole last year, is two shots off the lead after also making a fine start with a four-under 68
Fisher will be hoping it’s a case of third time lucky this year after coming agonisingly close to winning the coveted title twice after losing playoff duels in 2012 and last year.
He is tied for fourth position with Sweden’s Jonathan Agren and compatriot Alex Haindl while a group of six South African players is tied for seventh on three-under.
US-based Bruce McDonald is the highest placed Zimbabwean on the leaderboard after carding a solid two-under-par round of 70 to finish 16-way tie for 14th position.
McDonald, who represented Zimbabwe at the Golf World Cup with compatriot Brendon de Jonge seven years ago, is making his first appearance on home soil since 2
South Africa-based Zimbabwean Mark Williams also made a solid start after carding a one-under-par round of 71 while the duo of Ryan Cairns and Robson Chinhoi carded level par rounds of 72.