Sluiter leads Garcia by one after first day of British Open qualifier in Africa

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First-round leader Tim Sluiter is one of 51 players aiming for three spots in the British Open up for grabs this week in Africa.
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | 1:01 p.m.

Dutchman Tim Sluiter posted a 6-under 66 to Wednesday lead the first round of the British Open’s African edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

The 22-year-old took a one-stroke lead ahead of Thursday’s final round as 51 players began the 36-hole battle for three coveted places at the 141st British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes in July.

“I played solidly and gave myself a lot of chances,” said Sluiter. “If I keep the same approach tomorrow then I will be playing in The Open, which is really something.”

He started well and penciled in birdies at the first and second, kick-starting his campaign to play in golf’s oldest major. After a run of four pars, he birdied the seventh and reached the turn at 3 under. He made a further pair of birdies at the 13th and 14th before closing out with a final birdie at the par-5 18th.

“I didn’t play attacking golf because of the wind, which forces you to stay out of trouble around this course. Part of the trick is to give yourself chances, and I did that today,” he said. “My putting was on form and I chipped in at the seventh, so it was a solid round of golf.

“I feel comfortable on this course and my game is good,” he added. “Hopefully tomorrow will be another good round and it will end sweetly.”

Spaniard Jordi Garcia dropped a shot at the 15th, but peppered his round with six birdies to secure sole possession of second with a 5-under-par 67.

“I played really well today and my putting was good, which helped me enjoy the day. Although it wasn’t my focus at the beginning of the season, to play in the Open is something special to me,” he said.

The 26-year-old made two birdies before the turn before picking up further shots at the 10th, 12th, 14th and 17th.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s play, Garcia, who is yet to play in the Open, was excited about the chance to follow in the footsteps of previous IFQ Africa qualifiers such as 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen. “It will be a dream to play in the the Open. It’s such a big tournament that I don’t really have words to describe what it will mean,” he said.

Finishing at 4 under was Brazil’s top-ranked player, Adilson da Silva, who shot a solid 68 around the windy par-72 East Course.

“I had a good start and it was a good day, but the wind was swirling today, which made it tricky to find the right club,” he commented. “Tomorrow I will aim for a good score and stick with it. I have been lucky enough to play the Open twice before, and what an experience it is! Any time you can make it (to The Open) is really great.”

Canadian Andrew Parr continued his good form from last week’s Joburg Open, also played at Royal Johannesburg, to shoot 69 and finish the first round in fourth place.

“I want to be out there and I’m having a great time. I’m feeling confident on this course and tomorrow I’m going to repeat my performance and hopefully make The Open,” he said.

However, it was not such a good day for some of the bigger names in the field such as South Africans James Kingston, who retired due to injury, and world No. 80 Jaco Van Zyl, who shot a disappointing 78.

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 golf's oldest championship. Three players qualified for the British Open at the Australasian qualifier earlier this month, and future qualifiers will be held March 1-2 at Amata Spring Country Club in Bangkok, Thailand; May 21 at Gleneagles Golf & Country Club in Dallas, Texas; and June 25 at Sunningdale Golf club in Berkshire, England.