Higgins has work to do in Joburg

Waterville's David Higgins can't afford to take his foot off the gas despite a sub-par start in the Joburg Open.

The Kerry kingpin fired a three under par 69 in the first round of the €1 million European Tour event in Johannesburg.

But that still left him six shots off the blistering first round pace set by South Africa's Andrew McLardy.

Higgins, 34, eagled the par-five 18th on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to finish the day in a share of 47th place.

And that means that he will need to produce another solid score on the East Course today to make his first cut in 2007.

Higgins said: "I'm happy enough with the way I started. I hit it well from tee to green but my short game was a little rusty.

"I missed a couple of good birdie chances at the fifth and sixth but it was nice to finish with an eagle at the last there.

"I hit a drive and a five iron to 15 feet and knocked in the putt, which was nice. I guess I just have to be patient tomorrow and wait for the chances to come along."

McLardy scorched to a course record nine under par 63 on the West Course to open up a one-stroke lead over compatriots Mark Murless and Warren Abery.

Seven players share fourth place on seven under with Welshman David Park, Italian Edoardo Molinari and England's Chris Gane all positing superb rounds of 65.

But they all finished the day trailing McLardy, who went to the turn in two under before storming home in 29 with eagles at the 15th and 18th.

It was a remarkable turn around by the South African, who drove behind a tree at the 15th before snap hooking his approach to just three feet to set up the first of his two eagles.

After a round that also featured six birdie and one early bogey, he said: "I had a horrible front nine. I think I hit one fairway, the first fairway.

"I scrambled everything and got away with it. I just changed my rhythm on the back nine and things went better.

"I just played badly, I scrambled. I was trying to hit it too hard. I was trying to hit it as far past David Frost as I could, but it didn't work."

Higgins birdied the second and fourth to get to two under par, bogeyed the seventh but then birdied the 11th and par three 13th to move to three under.

A double bogey at the 178-yard 16th hurt his score but he bounced back in style with that sweet eagle three at the 494-yard last.