Clark, Fisher lead South African Open

The Links at Fancourt in George was expected to provide a real test for players in the South African Open.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:50 IST
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The Links at Fancourt in George was expected to provide a real test for players in the South African Open, and the course lived up to expectations on day one. Two-time former champion Trevor Immelman is quickly establishing himself as one of the stars of world golf, but he battled to a four-over par round of 77 on the extremely tough layout. Ernie Els started the tournament as favourite, following victory in last week's Dunhill Championship, but he also had difficulty in the afternoon conditions. Rare highlight The three-time winner of his national Open carded a disappointing 76, with an eagle at the par five 13th a rare highlight. Justin Rose is hoping to qualify for next year's European Ryder Cup team, and the Englishman scrambled well on Thursday as he compiled a one-over par 74. Retief Goosen is one of South Africa's most successful golfing exports, and he enjoyed the ultimate up-and-down day, with seven birdies cancelled out by two double-bogeys and three bogeys as he finished on even par. Charl Schwartzel, who was considered the best 18 year-old in the world back in 2002, may well be ready to deliver on that potential in 2006, and he could have a pleasant end to this year after carding an impressive three under par 70, including a birdie at the 12th. Emerging talent Jaco Van Zyl may be another name to keep an eye on after the 26 year-old South African compiled a classy round of 71. But defending champion Tim Clark appears to be the man to beat. Just two days before his 30th birthday, Clark equalled the course record with a five-under par 68, and few would bet against him celebrating in style on Sunday night. A superb tee shot to the par three eighth set up one of four birdies in his round, which also included an eagle and only one dropped shot. (AP)