Tuesday 24 October 2017

Irish pair back in the pack as Aiken sets pace

South African Thomas Aiken set a clubhouse target that proved impossible to match on the opening day of the Africa Open in East London.

Aiken was in the first group out from the ninth tee at 6.30 local time and carded a superb first round of 64, nine-under-par, to finish one shot ahead of playing partner Retief Goosen and Jaco Ahlers.

Compatriots Michael du Toit and Dean O'Riley were a shot further back after rounds of 66, with Welshman Phillip Price the only non-South African in the top six after a 66.

Ireland's Simon Thornton and Damien McGrane had contrasting fortunes. Thornton shot a four-under-par 69 to finish tied for 25th, but McGrane posted a one-over-par 74 to lie in 136th position.

Aiken opened with two pars before making an eagle three on the 11th and then closing out his front nine with birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th. Another eagle arrived at the par-five third after a stunning approach to two feet, and Aiken picked up two more birdies in a flawless round on the fifth and sixth.

Double US Open champion Goosen got off to a poor start with a bogey on the opening hole, but responded in style with five birdies in a row from the 11th and another on the 18th to cover the back nine in just 30 strokes.

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen was five off the lead with Thornton after a 69.

Africa Open,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 8.30am

The Tournament of Champions,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 10.30pm

Irish Independent

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