Solid start for SA at Argentina Stroke Play Championship

South Africa got their preparation for the upcoming Southern Cross Invitational in Argentina off to a solid start in the opening round of the Argentine Stroke Play Championship on Thursday.

The small greens at the tree-lined layout of the Martindale Country Club posed a huge challenge for the bulk of the field, but Australia’s Cory Crawford was on target with a five-under-par 65.

The Sanctuary Cove player leads by two from Argentina’s Jose Chon and Jeremy Gandon from France, while Gerlou Roux took point for the South African team in the curtain-raiser.

The Western Province golfer is four off the pace in a five-way tie for 11th after a one-under-par 69.

Former SA Stroke Play champion Jason Smith from Gauteng North opened with an even-par 70 to tie for 16th, while Ekurhuleni’s Tristen Strydom finished a further stroke adrift.

Gauteng North’s Hendrikus Stoop finished joint 31st in the 93-strong field after signing for a 73.

National coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen said the tough layout is a superb test.

“This course tests your iron play and the short game to the max,” Van Leeuwen said.

“You have to be able to shape the ball both ways, because the course is heavily tree-lined and the greens are really small. There are only two par fives on the back nine and the four par threes are incredibly tough.

“Overall, I think the guys did very well in the opening round. They stayed patient, which is key to scoring at this layout. Our players all hit the ball well and are adjusting to the layout.

“If the putts start to drop, they could all go low.”

Roux started with eight straight pars to start before his first bogey at the par-four ninth and atoned immediately with a birdie at the 10th.

After a string of four pars, the Province golfer notched back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th, dropped his second shot at the par-four 17th and finished with a par at the par-four 18th.

“Gerlou was very solid and his putter was hot,” Van Leeuwen said.

“Jason fought really well on a slightly off day with the long game. He knocked in four birdie putts to cancel two bogeys and a double at the par-four 10th to finish level. You have to scramble well if your long game is off and he did that superbly.”

Strydom has been struggling with the driver in the last two months, but started to find the rhythm and pace that carried him to the number one spot in the rankings.

He had two bogeys on the front nine, and dropped another shot the par-four 12th, but negated some of the damage with birdies at the two par fives.

“Tristen is hitting the ball really well again,” said the national coach. “If the putts start dropping, I expect him to go low.

“Hendrikus is also striking the ball well, but nothing really went his way today. He flagged his approaches on four occasions, but flew the green each time.

“It was just one of those days when he just didn’t score well. His all-round game is looking very good, though, and we expect him to make a comeback.”

Following the Argentine Stroke Play Championship, the country’s leading amateurs will line up against top international teams from the host nation, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland and Portugal at the Nordelta Golf Club in Tigre from 26-29 March.

To follow live scoring, click HERE

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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