JACK Doherty enjoyed seeing his name on a leaderboard again and is hoping a new caddie with Ryder Cup experience can help him get in the mix again this weekend.
The tall Scot, who finished eighth in the Dimension Data Pro-Am on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour last weekend, opened with a three-under-par 69 in the Tshwane Open, the European Tour’s latest event in the Rainbow Nation.
“I played pretty solid today,” said Doherty, who sits four shots behind Englishman Simon Dyson and South African Trevor Fisher Jnr.
“Last week was definitely a nice confidence boost. I played pretty good all week and it was nice to get my name up on the leaderboards again and in with a chance of winning last Sunday coming down the back nine.”
With this being his fifth week on the road, Doherty is enjoying having his wife Jocelyn and their young son, Harley, with him in Centurion. He is also benefitting from a combination of spending some time practising in Dubai before heading for South Africa and having a new caddie in Paul Smith on the bag.
“He started a couple of weeks ago and all is going well so far,” acknowledged the former Australian Amateur champion. “He caddied for Miguel Angel Jimenez for four years, including the 2008 Ryder Cup, so he knows his stuff and it is good having him on the bag.
“I spent some time in Dubai before coming down here and it was fantastic preparation as the facilities there are world class. Callum Nicol at The Els Club and Stephen Hubner at Dubai Creek have been really good with me and I really appreciate that.”
Dyson, playing his sixth event since being handed a suspended two-month ban from the European Tour following his disqualification from the BMW Masters in October, closed with birdies on his final four holes to card a seven-under 65 and take the clubhouse lead. When play was suspended due to the threat of lightning, Fisher junior was also on seven under after 16 and will complete his final two holes this morning.
“It’s a lovely start. It’s my lowest round in a good few years, especially on the first day,” Dyson said. “It just puts you in a nice frame of mind, a good stead, and sets it up nicely to have a good weekend.”
There are five players a shot behind, including four-times European Tour winner Darren Fichardt. South Africans have won ten of the last 13 European Tour events on home soil. England’s Ross Fisher, who has not won since 2010, is also on six under.
Dyson says improvement with the putter was key to his first-round success. “Putting has been the letdown for the last few weeks, but me and my caddie had a chat about what I’m doing wrong. We spent about an hour and a half on the putting green yesterday and I managed to get a good feel for it,” he said.
Fifer Peter Whiteford matched Doherty’s 69 despite a double-bogey 7 at the ninth while Alan McLean carded a 71, but Scott Jamieson’s first outing as part of the ISM stable resulted in a four-over 74 and that included two birdies in his final three holes.