South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence has soared to the top of the Joburg Open leaderboard at Randpark’s Firethorn course on an impressive 12-under-par with three eagles in the first two rounds.
The 24-year-old from Nelspruit Golf Club in Mbombela added to his 65 on day one on Thursday with the same number Friday to be on 130 at the halfway mark in this R17,5-million opening event of the newly-formed 2022 DP World Tour, a rebrand of the old European Tour. Thunderstorms on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon have resulted in protracted stop-start play and the second round will have to be completed Saturday morning although Lawrence’s lead should be intact ahead of round three.
“Six under par for just three holes where I had those eagles certainly helps one’s cause,” said the tough, burly Thriston who eagled the 500-metre par-5 14th with a drive and a massive nine-iron from 188 metres out which finished just three paces from the pin. In went the cup for a three on a hole he had also eagled on day one with a drive, an eight-iron and a 20-foot putt. Lawrence’s third eagle of the week so far also came on Thursday, where he nearly drove the green at the 366m par-4 sixth hole before finding the cup with a long chip for a handsome two.
“I’m driving well and hitting some great iron shots right on target because there were some sneaky flag positions and it was windy out there today so you had to be really accurate,” said Lawrence who eight years ago in 2013 at age just 16 became the youngest winner in the tournament’s history to win the South African Amateur. He defended the title the following year and then joined the paid ranks. His pro career has been up and down since then but on Friday he certainly looked a lot better than his world ranking of 503rd.
He leads by four from compatriot Zander Lombard, another man with a big, strong build, who has had a pair of 67s to be on eight-under 134 on this par-71 layout (it is usually a par-72 but the par-5 second has been temporarily changed into a par-4 for the pros).
“Conditions were tough out there today. It was so gusty but I hit a lot of fairways and greens because I controlled my ball flight and distance well,” said Lombard who plays out of Royal Johannesburg & Kensington and, like Lawrence, has had an average year – in his case on the European Tour where, as he puts it, he had too many top 30s and top 40s with a dearth of top 10s.
England’s Ashley Chesters (66-69) was lying third Friday on 135, with Spain’s Angel Hidalgo (65-71) on 136. South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis was next best on 137, followed by compatriots JC Ritchie, veteran Keith Horne, who recently turned 50, and Heinrich Bruiners on 138.
Ritchie (Els Club Copperleaf) had a hole-in-one at the par-3 eighth on Thursday en route to a disappointing 72. Friday he bounced back with a fine 66. He’s been better than on day 2, just as Lawrence and Lombard have been better in the second half of this year. Ritchie, like those two, is a big, strong fellow. The trio wouldn’t look out of place in a rugby front row. They may just be golf’s answer to the Bomb Squad.
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter