Scott Jamieson, who only just scraped into the 72-man field for the penultimate event of the season, got off to a “great start” in the Nedbank Golf Challenge as another of the toughest tracks on the European Tour again brought out the best in him.
Three weeks after tying for sixth behind host Sergio Garcia in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, the Glaswegian marked his debut on the Gary Player Country Club course in Sun City with a splendid four-under-par 68 in the $7.5 million Rolex Series event.
Jamieson, who carded six birdies, shared the clubhouse lead with Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, South African Branden Grace and American Julian Suri before Austrian Bernd Wiesberger came home in 31 for a 67 to set the first-round pace.
“It was a bit of mixed bag, really,” said Jamieson of his effort. “I didn’t play the par-5s particularly well until the ninth, our last hole. It was nice to make a birdie there because you want to be under par on par-5s, especially here when you can reach most of them.”
The 33-year-old is no stranger to playing golf in South Africa, having won the Nelson Mandela Championship at Royal Durban, but this is his initial visit to Sun City, which sits to the north-west of Johannesburg. “It’s my first time here and I love it,” he added. “It is very similar to Leopard Creek. I think it is visually intimidating off the tee. But, when you get up the fairway, there’s maybe a bit more room than you think. I also don’t think the rough is as bad as the guys said it was last year.”
Sitting 75th in the Race to Dubai, Jamieson, who is set to commute to European Tour events next season from a new home in Florida, was the third-last player into this event. He trails 60th-placed Gregory Bourdy by 78,164 points, so needs a top-15 finish to have any chance of getting into next week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“Nah, I wish I knew the answer to these questions,” he replied to being asked on Sky Sports if something had clicked in his game in Spain and continued on to this event. “If I did, we could be up there every week. Spain was good. My iron play was really good there. I didn’t drive it well the first two rounds last week in Turkey. I then played well over the weekend but just didn’t get it going, so today was a great start.”
On a day when Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood had to settle for a 73, leaving him in a tie for 39th as he bids to take advantage of closest challenger Justin Rose sitting out this event, Wiesberger produced the sort of form that is responsible for him being quoted among the contenders for next year’s Ryder Cup in France.
“It wasn’t easy, to be honest, as it was quite breezy,” said the four-time European Tour winner after signing for eight birdies, six of which came on the back nine. “But I played all right. I did not had great success when I was here last time, but I approached it with a neutral mind and I played a lot better than I have the last couple of weeks and putted good.”
Marc Warren was next best among five Scots in the field on 71, followed by David Drysdale (72), Richie Ramsay (73) and Stephen Gallacher (74). The latter was a shot off the lead after getting to three-under following three straight birdies around the turn before covering his last seven holes in five-over.
Elsewhere, on-form Gemma Dryburgh leads seven Scots into battle in the Hero Women’s Indian Open at DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurgaon. The Aberdonian recorded a top-10 finish in last week’s LET event in Abu Dhabi, backing up her recent success in making it through to the LPGA Qualifying School final.
Joining Dryburgh in an event that sees home player Aditi Ashok defend the title on the back of winning the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in the UAE last weekend are Vikki Laing, Kylie Henry, Carly Booth, Pamela Pretswell Asher, Kelsey Macdonald and Michele Thomson.