WHEN Australian Robert Allenby walked off the Gary Player Country Club course after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City yesterday, he had a smile as wide as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
How much of that grin was due to him being the overnight leader with a superb round of 68, or because he realised he had made the right decision to travel to South Africa rather than take part in the Australian Open, will be open to discussion.
There was nothing flash about Allenby's game. He drove well from the tee and when on the green managed to sink most of his putts with unerring precision.
Ranked No 30 in the world, Allenby went about the course like the journeyman he is. A bogey-free round set him up nicely and with the course playing fast, it should suit his game in the next three rounds.
One behind Allenby is local golfer Tim Clark on 69. Attacking the back nine holes, Clark picked up four birdies in total. The most impressive, though, was a 9m putt on the 17th.
A thunderstorm caused play to be suspended for two hours earlier in the day.
At that stage Allenby had already stamped his authority on the first round and with the resumption of play quickly took the lead.
Clark shares second spot with his countryman Retief Goosen.
For "The Goose" it was a mixed bag. After a solid first nine holes he came unstuck on the 14th and 15th where wayward shots found him searching in the scrub for his ball.
It may have brought a smile to the spectators to see the US Open and World No 18 on his hands and knees, but his class shone through when he quickly rectified things with an eagle on the par-4 17th hole.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson is still in the reckoning with a round of 70 while the surprise package of the day was first-time visitor Hunter Mahan, who also carded a 70.