South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl claimed the clubhouse lead in the BMW SA Open as tournament host Ernie Els suffered another attack of the dreaded yips at Glendower.
Els had been three over par with three holes to play before reviving his chances of a sixth victory in the event with a birdie on the seventh and an eagle on the par-five eighth.
However, the four-time major winner then three-putted the ninth, his final hole, to card a one-over-par 73, the 46-year-old’s par putt from 18 inches not even touching the hole.
Former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart, commentating for Sky Sports, said: “It’s brutal.
“He is a lot more comfortable from 15ft-20ft; the expectation level is lower, no pressure on himself, and he can breathe normally and just go through the stroke no problem at all. You come into the 3ft or 4ft range and things are completely different.”
Els missed two similar putts in the space of a month towards the end of last season and admitted at the time he did not want to watch the first of them, during the Dunhill Links Championship, after it went viral on the internet.
“I knew what it felt like and it was a thing of disaster,” Els said at the time. “If anybody has ever seen the yips, that was the perfect yip stroke.
“In the game of golf, you’re going to do some silly things when you play it long enough and I had my moment there. Hopefully I won’t have too many of those again.”
Compatriot Van Zyl had no such concerns as he looked to add a first European Tour title to his 13 wins on the Sunshine Tour, the world No 65 firing an eagle, six birdies, and one bogey to card an opening 65.
“I had a couple of weeks off spending time with the family and had my share of whisky and Christmas pudding, so it was really nice to get off to a good start,” said Van Zyl.
Asked about the prospect of winning his national open, Van Zyl added: “It would be absolutely phenomenal. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
“We compete in a lot of big events week in, week out, but for a South African player this is obviously so much closer to your heart. This means so much more to us.”
Van Zyl held a one-shot lead over compatriot Shaun Norris, with fellow South Africans Keith Horne and Jbe Kruger both completing rounds of 67 shortly before play was suspended for the day due to the threat of lightning.
Retief Goosen was a shot further back after a round containing eight birdies and two double bogeys, with defending champion Andy Sullivan struggling to a 75, which included four-putting from 25ft on the 17th.
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