Africa Open 2014: Daily Leaderboard Analysis, Highlights and More
The European Tour continues with the 2014 Africa Open at the East London Golf Club in South Africa.
This is the seventh and penultimate South African date in this year's calendar, following on from George Coetzee's home triumph at the Joburg Open.
Unfortunately, many big names have opted to take part in the PGA Tour event at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, instead of prolonging their stint on African soil. Gregory Bourdy, the world No. 107, is the highest-ranked player at the East London event, which runs from Thursday through Sunday.
Because of this, there's a sense that anyone could sneak away with a victory with a strong performance.
Thomas Aiken should be considered amongst the favourites, while defending champion Darren Fichardt will be looking to retain his crown on home soil.
Day 5: Aiken Emerges Victorious in Playoff
Thomas Aiken has won the 2014 Africa Open at the East London Golf Club in South Africa. The Johannesburg native edged Englishman Oliver Fisher in a one-hole playoff, finishing the tournament 20-under-par and birdying the extra hole to claim the title.
Here's a look at the final leaderboard:
VAN ZYL, Jaco
It was Aiken’s third European Tour title since turning professional in 2002 and first since winning the Avantha Masters back in March of 2013.
The 30-year-old victor was fortunate to have a chance after the final round of regulation, as Fisher could have emerged with the win if he had sunk a narrowly missed birdie putt on No. 18.
The runner-up would go on to miss the green in the playoff hole and was staring down a 15-foot putt for par when Aiken sunk his 35-foot birdie putt to end it.
Aiken’s wife, Kate, was on his bag during the week and was right there to celebrate the Africa Open title when he made the shot.
Aiken was tied for third and four strokes off the lead when play started on Sunday, but a slip from overnight leader Emiliano Grillo opened the door for the South African to join countrymen Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Darren Fichardt as a champion.
There was a two-way tie for third in the tourney, with David Horsey and John Hahn finishing 19-under and splitting that share of the prize money. Four competitors, including former champ Fichardt, posted a score of 18-under and tied for fifth.
Day 4: Emiliano Grillo Shoots Up the Leaderboard
No one had a better performance on Saturday than Emiliano Grillo, who shot a nine-under score of 62 to move into first place at the Africa Open.
The Argentine had five birdies on the front-nine and then kept that up with four more on his way back to the clubhouse. It was a flawless performance with no bogeys to give him a two-stroke lead heading into the final day.
Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard after Round 3:
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American John Hahn entered the day as the leader with a score of 16 strokes under par. While he had a steady par, finishing with two birdies and two bogeys, this was not enough to keep pace with the rest of the field.
In fact, only eight other players in the top 45 failed to score better than par on Saturday.
Hahn's inability to take advantage of favorable conditions could end up hurting him as he dropped to a tie for third going into the final day.
Oliver Fisher also had an interesting day to shoot into second place after Round 3. After finishing one-under on the front-nine, he carded two pars, two bogeys, four birdies and an eagle on the back-nine. This all added up to a score of 66, which put him at minus-18 for the tournament.
While he is two strokes back of Grillo heading into Sunday, Fisher might be the only one capable of catching the current leader. Otherwise Grillo will come away with his first career win on the European tour.
Day 3: Hahn Snatches Lead During Another Shortened Day
John Hahn shot 10-under during the second round to take the lead before play was suspended due to bad light.
Hahn's 61, the pest performance on Friday catapulted the American up the Africa Tour leaderboard on Friday. He particularly finished his round strong, scoring a 28 in the latter half of his 18 holes.
A 61 by American John Hahn, with a second nine of 28, gives him a 2-stroke lead in the Africa Open at East London GC. Incredible golf.— Michael Vlismas (@MichaelVlismas) February 14, 2014
Ricardo Santos, who stormed to an early lead after shooting a 62 during the opening round, watched his edge evaporate after Hahn bounced back from a first-round bogey to convert eight birdies and a eagle during the day.
England's David Horsey was one of the day's other top performers. His 64 placed him in fourth place after notching a 66 during the opening slate. He's now one trail behind fellow countryman Oliver Fisher, who shot a 63 on Day 2 to place himself high among the pack.
Here's how the top of the leaderboard looks as the second round nears its conclusion:
Sweden's Jens Dantorp lurks closely behind at 10-under after scoring a 63 during the second round. He needed a big day after slumping with a 69 to kick off the tournament at the East London GC.
Among the top competitors still waiting to finish the second round are Richard Blank and Patrik Sjoland. Both men belong in a six-way tie for 13th place at nine-under.
Day 2: Santos Retains Clubhouse Lead After Heavy Rain Delays Play
Ricardo Santos concluded his second round on 14-under at this year's Africa Open, taking the clubhouse lead by one shot over Oliver Fisher, who enjoyed a fantastic eight-under round on the day.
Heavy rain delayed play for 90 minutes in South Africa, as reported by the European Tour's official Twitter account:
Play at #AfricaOpen to restart at 1045 local time after 1hr35min delay due to heavy rain. PM tee times delayed 1hr30min from original times.— The European Tour (@European_Tour) February 14, 2014
At the time of writing, the top 5 had finished their 18 holes, producing the following results:
America's John Hahn and home defending champion Thomas Aiken are also tied on 11-under, but have only completed 11 and 12 holes respectively. You can check the latest leaderboard here.
Santos enjoyed another solid, if unspectacular day, but lost a little momentum after firing a 62 during the opening round. He shot five birdies, a trio of which came between holes three and seven, to keep himself steady at the top.
Fisher ramped up pressure with an excellent eight-under 63, building on his five birdies from the opening day. The Englishman gained real confidence at 15, sinking a birdie that would burst him into life. He achieved the same score on the next three holes, placing him ahead of a tight pack below.
Fabrizio Zanotti remained solid, but like Santos, there's a slight feeling he could drop down the rankings by playing too safe. His five birdies were well constructed, and certainly worthy of praise, but there's a sense that he could suffer if he doesn't up his game by a notch.
That said, Lucas Bjerregaard would love to mimic Zanotti's consistency. Despite posting a second round score of five-under, the Dane played erratically throughout. His bogeys on the third and 13th, combined with a double bogey on the ninth, halted any chances of nabbing top spot.
Considering Bjerregaard is only three shots behind the overall lead, he will certainly look back knowing he's missed an opportunity to ramp up the pressure on Santos.
Adam Gee settled down after posting a bogey at four to tie alongside Bjerregaard and Zanotti, entering the clubhouse on 11-under after a decent day for the English contingent.
Day 1: Santos Enters the Clubhouse with 2-Shot Lead
Ricardo Santos shot nine birdies and finished with a nine-under-par 62 to give himself a two-shot clubhouse lead over the rest of the pack on the opening day of this year's Africa Open.
The Portuguese player, ranked No. 216 in the world, demonstrated consistency across the entire course, posting three consecutive birdies across four final holes on his way to a well-earned rest.
Here's the top of the Day 1 leaderboard:
Full leaderboard can be viewed on the European Tour's official website.
Garth Mulroy is the best-placed South African after the opening round. He currently sits in third at seven under, largely thanks to a terrific eagle on No. 3. Although Mulroy undid his hard work with a bogey on the 16th, six birdies kept him in contention at the top.
Rhys Davies of Wales also struggled with a bogey, but his came on the opening hole. Davies has only ever won a single European Tour event since turning professional in 2007—the 2010 Hassan II Trophy in Morocco—but he will be confident after dusting himself off with a strong showing of eight birdies.
Richard Bland joined Mulroy and Davies at seven under, and aside from sinking an eagle on the third, lived up to his surname by making eight pars across the front nine. Five birdies down the back livened his chances up and kept him in touching distance of Santos.
Lucas Bjerregaard was the last entrant to finish at seven under, but he will be disappointed with a bogey on the 18th. Like many around him, Bjerregaard could have progressed up the leaderboard with a little more composure.
A tight group at six under was led by Gregory Bourdy. The Frenchman's bogey on the 17th stopped him heading into the upper echelons of the table, but he's nicely placed to make a charge on the second day.
David Drysdale, John Hahn, Fabrizio Zanotti, Brinson Paolini, Merrick Bremner and James Morrison join Bourdy in the chasing pack.
Early favourites Thomas Aiken and Darren Fichardt finished five under and both suffered bogeys on Nos. 1 and 8.
Dave Tindall of Sky Sports describes the course that may have forced many into changing their strategy:
East London is extremely short by modern standards, measuring in at just 6,632 yards. The course meanders through coastal dunes and dense, indigenous bush and has some striking views overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Santos' lead puts him into an excellent position heading into the second day, but this is an awfully tight leaderboard right now. We've already seen a few eagles shoot competitors up the board, something the current pace-setter will be looking to replicate with haste.
Both Aiken and Fichardt shouldn't be counted out, despite struggling four shots behind Santos. As ever, the next 18 holes will give us a much better idea of who should be considered real contenders to the throne.