Not even a bogey at the last could wipe the smile off Damien McGrane’s face as he fired an eight under 63 to grab a share of the clubhouse lead in the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The Kells ace, 40, took full advantage of perfect weather conditions to fire seven birdies and then chip in for eagle at the 15th before dropping his only shot on the day on the 18th on the easier West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Following a disappointing 2011 campaign that saw him struggle to keep card before finishing a tenuous 115th in the Race to Dubai standings, the 2008 Volvo China Open winner was delighted to miss just one fairway and take only 25 putts.
He finished the day tied at the top of the leaderboard with Q-School graduate Jamie Elson as an afternoon thunderstorm forced played to be suspended with Peter Lawrie level par for 15 holes on the West Course and Simon Thornton three over after six on the East.
Hoping to end a victory drought that goes back close to four years, McGrane said: “It’s been quite incredible the last three or four years for a small nation to have such great results and we do feed off each other a bit.
“When I won in China in 2008, Darren Clarke won the following week and Peter Lawrie the week after that. Every so often we have our good spells and I wouldn’t mine getting another one started here.”
What pleased McGrane most about his round was his play from tee to green.
“I played beautifully, from start to finish,” he said. “The West Course does give up opportunities to score and tomorrow will obviously be more difficult on the East Course. But the course is perfect, the weather was perfect and I made a few putts.
“I was able to stack up the birdies and chipped in for eagle on 15, which was a nice bonus. But the wetness of the course means there’s no run out there, the course is playing very long.
“I made use of every club in the bag and it was just about making the best of the situation. I hit every fairway, except for the last, which led to a bogey, which was disappointing.”
South African Desvonde Botes shot the best score of the day on the East Course, a seven-under par 65, to share third place in an event where the winner will take home €206,050.