EAST LONDON, South Africa -- South African Jaco Van Zyl overcame blustery conditions and a suspension in play at East London Golf Club on Thursday to set the clubhouse lead of 6-under-par 66 in the weather-disrupted first round of the European Tour’s Africa Open.
The winds reached such speeds that play had to be halted for nearly three hours as balls started moving on the greens, particularly at the exposed third hole, meaning that only the morning groups completed their rounds.
Van Zyl, still searching for his first European Tour title, adapted best to the difficult conditions, carding five birdies and an eagle-3 on the par-5 15th, after starting his round on the 10th hole.
His only dropped shot was a bogey on the second hole, as the 33-year-old opened up a two-shot clubhouse lead over Englishman John Parry.
“All I could think about over those last three holes was how much I wanted to get off the golf course,” Van Zyl said. “The wind was really, really brutal out there, especially over the front nine. It was a struggle to stand and keep your balance over your putts, so the suspension was a good call.”
Parry won during his rookie campaign in 2010, but lost his card a year later before romping to victory at Q-School to ensure a return to The European Tour.
He had five birdies and a bogey in his first 11 holes to join Van Zyl at the top of the leaderboard, but went in the wrong direction after the long break with bogeys at the second and fourth dropping him to 2 under with four holes to play.
However, he responded with birdies at the fifth and seventh to return to 4 under, and as a result took second in the clubhouse after signing for a 68.
Van Zyl’s compatriot Oliver Bekker is one shot further back following a 69.
Playing in one of the last groups of the day, Brazil’s Adilson Da Silva made a remarkable start to his round. The 41-year-old had four birdies in his first five holes to sit one shot behind Parry on 5 under par through eight holes.
He and the remainder of the afternoon groups will resume play at 7:00 a.m. local time on Friday after fading light forced the players off the course at 6:55 p.m. local time.