JOHANNESBURG -- Andrew Georgiou of South Africa carded a 7-under-par 65 Tuesday to take a one-shot lead in the African edition of the British Open’s International Final Qualifying (IFQ) tournament. The two-day, 36-hole event at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club will award spots at Muirfield to the top three finishers out of the field of 63.
“I made an eagle on the eighth hole after I hit a 3-wood to three foot and all of a sudden the momentum changed,” said Georgiou. “Eventually it clicked – today was just a matter of staying patient and taking the opportunities when they came.”
Georgiou, 26, was one of the three qualifiers last year, and is determined to play at golf’s oldest major championship again.
“It helps having done it once before. I enjoy this event and I really enjoyed the Open last year – there are a lot of great memories,” he said. “Knowing what’s in store for you if you qualify really motivates you to get back there.”
He will face stiff competition on Wednesday, however, as this year’s IFQ field is as strong as it’s ever been – amongst the contestants are seven European Tour winners and 28 Sunshine Tour winners.
At the close of the first round, three players shared second on 6 under par. South Africa’s Darryn Lloyd set the mark in the clubhouse with his 66, and made it clear that the scoring would be low on the East Course of Royal Johannesburg & Kensington.
He was soon joined by compatriot Justin Harding, who has watched the Open on television since he was a boy. Another good round on Wednesday could earn him a place at a championship that he could only wish to play in.
“I think it will be an amazing experience to play the Open,” said Harding. “Every youngster watched the Championship and it was special to watch Ernie Els win it, both last year and at Muirfield in 2002. To possibly follow in his footsteps would be awesome.”
Fellow South African Jake Roos was the third player to reach the clubhouse at 6 under, and was pleased to get the 36-hole event off to such a good start. “To play in the biggest major would be more than just a step up, and I would love a taste of the experience,” he said.
Desvonde Botes and Spain’s Eduardo de la Riva are tied for fifth on 5 under par, while Dean Burmester took hold of sole seventh on 4 under. Experienced Englishman Ross McGowan, the highest ranked player in the field Garth Mulroy, and South African Oliver Bekker share eighth position on 3 under par.
Last year’s IFQ-Africa winner Grant Veenstra is a further shot back on 2 under par, while 2012’s final qualifier, Brazilian Adilson Da Silva, lies back in tied 45th at 1 over par.
The field also will have to watch out for South Africa’s James Kingston, who sits tied for 11th on 2 under par. The two-time European Tour winner has played in the Open on four separate occasions, and will be eager to return to Muirfield, where he made his Open debut back in 2002.
International Final Qualifying (IFQ) events were introduced in 2004 and are held on five continents to give more players from around the world the chance to gain direct entry into the British Open. The Australian and Asian events have already been held, and the remaining IFQ events are set for May 20 at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas; and June 24 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Sunningdale, England.