Richard Sterne will push Shane Lowry out of the world’s top 64 and leave him relying on withdrawls to make the Accenture Match Play if he remains at the head of affairs and wins the Joburg Open on Sunday.
But with Phil Mickelson believed to be certain to pull out, the Clara man can still book his tickets for Tucson providing another player at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am does not have a stellar week.
As things stand, up to 27 players in action this week can overtake Lowry and move inside the qualifying places when the world rankings are updated following the conclusion of play in California on Sunday.
They don’t include Damien McGrane, who shot a five under 66 in the opening round in South Africa where a win would catapult the Kells man back into the world’s top 200.
McGrane opened with a three-putt bogey on the easier West Course at Royal Kensington but picked up six birdies in an excellent opening round to share 12th place on five under par.
Lowry has taken this week off and knows he’d have to be pretty unlucky to miss out on a WGC-Accenture debut. It’s not impossible, however, that Sterne or one of the other 26 will get the result the need to leapfrog him in California or South Africa.
Here’s what Lowry’s rivals have to do to make the top 64 and leave him relying on another withdrawal if Sterne wins:
Rank - Name - Country- Tournament - Finish needed
- 69 Geoff Ogilvy Aus AT&T 6th or better
- 71 Brendon de Jonge Zwe AT&T 6th or better
- 73 Fredrik Jacobson Swe AT&T 7th or better
- 77 Kevin Na USA, AT&T 4th or better
- 81 Kristoffer Broberg Swe Joburg Top 2
- 83 Danny Willett Eng, Joburg Win
- 87 Aaron Baddeley Aus, AT& 3rd or better
- 92 Ryan Palmer USA, AT&T 2nd or better
- 93 Vijay Singh Fiji, AT&T 2nd or better
- 94 Richard Sterne Saf, Joburg Win
- 97 Jimmy Walker USA, AT&T 2nd or better
- 100 Seung-Yul Noh Kor, AT&T Win
- 108 Charlie Wi Kor, AT&T Win
- 112 Chris Kirk USA, AT&T Win
- 113 Luke Guthrie USA, AT&T 2nd or better
- 116 Johnson Wagner USA, AT&T Win
- 118 Tommy Gainey USA, AT&T Win
- 119 Retief Goosen Saf, AT&T Win
- 120 Kevin Stadler USA, AT&T Win
- 121 Casey Wittenberg USA, AT&T Win
- 122 Josh Teater USA, AT&T Win
- 126 Matt Every USA AT&T Win
- 129 Ted Potter Jnr USA, AT&T Win
- 134 Harris English USA, AT&T Win
- 146 Charlie Beljan USA, AT&T Win
- 147 Brian Harman USA, AT&T Win
- 148 JB Holmes USA, AT&T Win
As David Higgins opened with a level par 71 on the West Course to share 117th, Gareth Maybin carded a two over 74 on the tougher East Course to lie joint 162nd.
At the top of the leaderboard, Sterne and German Max Kieffer fired eight under par 63s to share the first round lead.
Both players continued the fine form they displayed in Dubai last week, where Sterne finished second and Kieffer shared 17th place behind Stephen Gallacher, as they tackled the West Course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Course.
The first two rounds of the Joburg Open are being played over the West and East Courses, with each of the 209 players in action playing one round on each before the tournament reverts to the more difficult East Course for the final two days.
The prospect of a tougher challenge for the next three days certainly does not phase the 2008 Joburg Open champion Sterne, though.
He said: “I had three good rounds around the East Course the year I won here. If I can do that again I’ll have a chance on Sunday.”
Sterne’s 2008 victory was the start of a clean sweep of the three co-sanctioned European Tour and Sunshine Tour events that winter, but a back injury ravaged his 2010 and 2011 campaigns.
Kieffer, who graduated the Challenge Tour last year, continued the impressive start to his rookie year on The European Tour, having already finished tied for fourth at the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban and tied for 17th last week in Dubai.
“When you come from the Challenge Tour everyone says that you have enough to play out here, but you still want to prove it,” said Kieffer.
“It’s a new world and you don’t really know what to expect, so I’m happy that it went pretty good so far. That round was great. I’ve been playing well the last few weeks and I just tried to stay positive on the golf course, and luckily today was another good round.”
South Africa’s Bryce Easton had a hole-in-one en route to posting a seven under 65 on the East Course, which gave him third place on seven under.
Defending champion Branden Grace and two-time winner Charl Schwartzel were also on the East Course on day one, but while former Masters Tournament winner Schwartzel opened with a four under 68, Grace could only produce a level par 72.
Round One Scores:
63 M Kieffer (Ger); R Sterne (RSA);
65 T Mordt (RSA); M Daffue (RSA); B Easton (RSA); J Lagergren (Swe); P Uihlein (USA);
66 O Strydom (RSA); A Kaleka (Fra); J Kingston (RSA); D Horsey (Eng); T Ferreira (RSA); A Da Silva (Bra); J Van Zyl (RSA); A Versfeld (RSA); T Fisher Jnr (RSA); D McGrane (Irl); E Kofstad (Nor);
67 L Gagli (Ita); D Burmester (RSA); R McGowan (Eng); J Cunliffe (RSA); D Fichardt (RSA); G Boyd (Eng); L Slattery (Eng); T Van Der Walt (RSA); T Aiken (RSA); N Fasth (Swe); R Cairns (Zim); K Horne (RSA); F Aguilar (Chi); R Finch (Eng); A Tadini (Ita); I Garrido (Esp); G Coetzee (RSA);
68 T Fleetwood (Eng); O Bekker (RSA); A Sullivan (Eng); O Fisher (Eng); A Snobeck (Fra); D Drysdale (Sco); P Price (Wal); M Bremner (RSA); C Basson (RSA); L Jensen (Den); C Schwartzel (RSA); J Elson (Eng); A Schwartzel (RSA); D Van Tonder (RSA); J Kruger (RSA);
69 J Campillo (Esp); D Van Den Heever (RSA); M Zions (Aus); J Hugo (RSA); M Foster (Eng); S Benson (Eng); T Van Aswegen (RSA); T Maseko (RSA); J Parry (Eng); L Rowe (RSA); B Åkesson (Swe); B Vaughan (RSA); M Korhonen (Fin); T Moore (RSA); S Henry (Sco); W Coetsee (RSA); A Levy (Fra); B Pieters (RSA); M Carvell (RSA); P Karmis (RSA); M Lundberg (Swe); J Hansen (Den); R Derksen (Ned); J Harding (RSA); J Lara (Esp);
70 R Santos (Por); G Mulroy (RSA); H Buhrmann (RSA); M Southgate (Eng); J Kamte (RSA); G Lockerbie (Eng); C Macaulay (Sco); J De Beer (RSA); S Wakefield (Eng); R Gonzalez (Arg); A Hartø (Den); G Havret (Fra); D Petersen (RSA); A Haindl (RSA); J Blaauw (RSA); O Sandys (RSA); H Otto (RSA); G Cambis (Fra); G Bourdy (Fra); D Willett (Eng); M Hollick (RSA); M Nixon (Eng); J Sjöholm (Swe); M Tullo (Chi); A Curlewis (RSA); T Sefatsa (RSA);
71 K Broberg (Swe); N Cheetham (Eng); N Schietekat (RSA); R Rock (Eng); A Georgiou (RSA); P Waring (Eng); D Botes (RSA); S Chowrasia (Ind); C Cévaër (Fra); J Ahlers (RSA); R Wellington (RSA); C Coetzee (RSA); E Grillo (Arg); D Ferreira (RSA); R De Smidt (RSA); G Murray (Sco); L De Jager (RSA); S Arnold (Aus); D Gerber (RSA); R Davies (Wal); S Webster (Eng); U Van Den Berg (RSA); M Warren (Sco); S Norris (RSA); J Walters (RSA); J Harvey (RSA); B Koepka (USA); D Higgins (Irl);
72 M Gligic (Can); A Michael (RSA); F Laporta (Ita); T Lewis (Eng); B Grace (RSA); F Zanotti (Par); C Swanepoel (RSA); T Simon (RSA); M Bothma (RSA); S Bujela (RSA); J Du Buisson (RSA); P Whiteford (Sco); C Nel (RSA); R Tipping (RSA); S Little (Eng); J Busby (Eng); M Baldwin (Eng); P Archer (Eng); P McIntyre (RSA); A Dodt (Aus); J Senekal (RSA); P Hedblom (Swe);
73 D McGuigan (RSA); S Kjeldsen (Den); C Doak (Sco); V Groenewald (RSA); J Roos (RSA); M Wiegele (Aut); M Delpodio (Ita); M Brier (Aut); A Pistorius (RSA); C Lee (Sco); M Lampert (Ger); A Marshall (Eng);
74 D Brooks (Eng); J Morrison (Eng); D Gaunt (Aus); R Strauss (RSA); D Hewan (RSA); M Nethunzwi (RSA); T Spangenberg (RSA); G Stal (Fra); A McLean (Sco); P Erofejeff (Fin); M Madsen (Den); G Maybin (Nir); D Van Der Walt (RSA); C Paisley (Eng); E Pepperell (Eng); W Abery (RSA); D Greene (RSA); D O’Riley (RSA);
75 C Del Moral (Esp); J Strydom (RSA); C Lloyd (Eng); M Buys (RSA); K Davidse (RSA); M Jonzon (Swe); M Lafeber (Ned); J Claassen (RSA); G Muller (RSA);
76 Y Jung (RSA); G Storm (Eng); M Murless (RSA); C Gane (Eng); E De La Riva (Esp); H Bruiners (RSA); J Raphunga (RSA); R Karlberg (Swe);
77 W Westner (RSA); A Forsyth (Sco); S Ferreira (RSA); M Mazibuko (RSA); E Goya (Arg); M Williams (RSA);
78 B Detweiler (RSA); R Nortje (RSA);
79 N Dougherty (Eng);
80 R McEvoy (Eng);
81 O Floren (Swe).