Van der Walt opens Korn Ferry year strongly

Dawie van der Walt opened his 2021 Korn Ferry Tour season on Monday with an eagle on his first hole on his way to a four-under-par 67 in the first round of the LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

That left him four shots off the pace when the round was suspended due to darkness, with Australia’s Brett Coletta and America’s George Cunningham finished at eight-under, and Canada’s Albin Choi also on eight-under with one hole left to play.

Starting his round on the 10th, Van der Walt leapt to two-under with his eagle on the 550-yard par-five, and then birdied the 14th to turn in three-under. His homeward nine didn’t start quite as auspiciously as he made a double-bogey six on the 448-yard opening hole, but he picked up three more shots with birdies on the fourth, eighth and ninth.

The other South African in the field, Tyrone van Aswegen, also started on the 10th, and bogeyed the 12th and 13th before picking up his first birdie on the 15th. Birdies on the sixth, eighth and ninth saw him sign for a 69 and a share of 66th with the first round to be completed early Friday morning Florida time.

On the main tour, the PGA Tour, Branden Grace was the best-placed of the three South Africans in the field after an opening level-par 71 in the Genesis Invitational at Pacific Palisades in California. That left him seven shots off the lead held by American Sam Burns, who, like Van der Walt, got his round off to a flyer with an eagle on the 10th.

Behind Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Dylan Frittelli had poor starts with a pair of four-over 75s, leaving them in a share of 105th place in the 120-man field and with a mountain to climb if they are to play over the weekend.

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