Grace reels in Koepka in the opening round of the SA Open
Chase Koepka is exactly what Brandon Grace did as he reeled in US Open champion Brooks Koepka’s lesser known brother in the opening round of the SA Open on Thursday.
Coming off a seven-week break following his triumph in the Nedbank Challenge‚ Grace picked up where he left off as he set about in pursuit of the 336th ranked clubhouse leader who was well en route to making a name for himself.
Chase Koepka sizzled in overcast conditions in the morning.
He dropped a shot on the opening hole and as he started the back nine‚ but still managed to fashion a round of 65. Grace‚ as things warmed up in the afternoon‚ displayed the requisite amount of muscle and touch in compiling a round that included three eagles.
“I don’t know when last or if I’ve ever made three eagles in one round‚” Grace said about the advances he made on the second‚ eighth and 15th.
Grace said the only aggression he showed on the par 5s was on the second when he had 244m into the flag.
“It was a three-wood into the flag and I knocked it to within 25 feet.
“Obviously I was a little rusty with some of the wedge shots and things like that.
"All in all I’m very pleased with the outcome.
"I pretty much got the most out of that round‚” said Grace‚ who admitted to walking 18 holes for the first time in seven weeks.
His round wasn’t without blemish and suffered an unforeseen hiccup on the seventh.
“I took two little practice strokes as I walked up to the green and my ball rolled.
"I never saw it‚ Zack (Rasego‚ his caddie) saw it.
"We just wanted to get the rules official out.
“I know I was not the cause of the ball moving.
"We didn’t know whether we could re-place the ball or play it from where it lies.
"It was a little negative that I had to play it from where it ended up.”
The seventh proved problematic for a number of players with half of the top 10 bogeying the par four.
As he approached the turn 2016 champion Brandon Stone’s round took a turn for the worse.
He missed the fairway to the right on the seventh and when he couldn’t reach the green in two he suffered the added indignity of watching his chip to the elevated putting surface roll back towards him.
He had to settle for an underwhelming 75‚ as did defending champion Graeme Storm.
England’s Chris Paisley is a shot behind the leaders‚ while a group of four players are two shots back from the lead.
South Africa’s Richard Sterne and Erik van Rooyen carded four-under scores.
Charl Schwartzel‚ Retief Goosen and Haydn Porteous are on three under‚ while tournament host Ernie Els signed for a one-under total.
It was‚ however‚ a day to forget for two-time champion Trevor Immelman.
He played like someone whose last competitive round was played in the middle of last year when he participated in the Scottish Open.
His 79‚ which included five drops and a double bogey‚ will put him under huge pressure to make the cut.
The shot of the day belonged to Jamie Donaldson.
Unperturbed by the din from the nearby N3 the Welshman looped in a hole-in-one on the 14th.
It led to wild celebratory fist pumps and when he tossed his red-hot iron it took his caddie by surprise.