Korb grabs his chance to lead SA Open

Dec 3, 2020 | Featured, Sunshine Tour

Six weeks ago, Ruan Korb could barely imagine that he would have been leading the South African Open Championship, let alone playing in it. But a five-under-par 67 on Thursday took him into a six-way share of the first-round lead at Gary Player Country Club.

A one-stroke victory in the Sunshine Tour’s Time Square Casino Challenge on November 6 gained him exemption into all three of the ‘South African swing’ on the European Tour as the Joburg Open, the Alfred Dunhill Championship and now the SA Open rose from the ashes of the year that was decimated by COVID-19.

“I’m just so pleased to be here,” said the left-hander after his round, and not even a single bogey on the eighth – the 17th for those who are accustomed to the course as it is played for the Nedbank Golf Challenge – could dampen his enthusiasm.

“I actually started out badly,” said Korb of his round which got underway on the 10th. “I hit two bad drives and I was lucky to make par on those two holes. But making par gave me some momentum, and I got into the swing of things after that.”

He made pars all the way up until the 15th, and then things clicked for him. Four consecutive birdies around the turn on 16, 17, 18 and one saw him race up the leaderboard. Two more gains on three and four saw him take the outright lead which he held until his approach on the eighth came up left of the green in some thick rough.

“It was difficult to stop the ball out of that,” he said, “and the green was sloping away from me. I just missed the 20-footer for par left, but, all in all, I was not unhappy to take bogey from there, even though the hole was playing quite easy today.”

He shared the first-round lead with last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout, fellow South Africans Dean Burmester and Jacques Kruywijk, Austrian Matthias Schwab and Italy’s Aron Zemmer.

One shot back were Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and South Africa’s Dylan Fruittelli. Frittelli had it going early on as he raced out to seven-under-par through 10 holes after teeing off on the 10th. He turned in 30, but conditions started to get much tougher as a swirling wind came up, and he dropped three shots coming home, on the second, fifth and eighth.

Rounding out the top of the leaderboard at three-under were Neil Schietekat, Wilco Nienaber, Justin Walters and England’s Toby Tree.

For Korb, the win six weeks ago just cemented his belief that he can play at this level. “I’ve been playing solid golf for a long time now,” he said. “The win opened the doors I needed to have opened, and now I feel like I belong.

“And it helps that this is being played at Sun City. I know the course well. And getting a morning start tomorrow is going to be helpful, because the greens will be in great shape. I’m looking forward to it.”

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