Walters edges ahead in Johannesburg


Justin Walters birdied the 18th hole to take a one-shot lead in a congested leaderboard after the first round of the Joburg Open on Thursday.

The South African, who is one of several home favourites attempting to become the seventh South African winner in the 10th instalment of the tournament, carded a seven-under-par 65 on the East Course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Walters was one under after four holes, but his round really kick-started with an eagle at the par-five sixth which was followed by a birdie at the following hole.

He made further gains at the 10th and 14th, and it appeared as though he would have to settle to for a seven-way tie for the lead until he made a final birdie at the last.

A cluster of six players are one stroke behind on six under, with Anthony Wall, David Howell and Mark Williams all signing for scores of 65 on the West Course, while Michael Jonzon, Haydn Porteous and Johan Carlsson made 66 on the East.

Williams' score was particularly impressive given he made double bogey at the seventh having gone five under through six, a cluster of three birdies in the last four holes further propelling him up the leaderboard.

English duo Wall and Howell were impressively bogey free for their rounds, as was Porteous.

Three places for non-exempt players are available for this year's Open and in a field of 210, the biggest of the season, there are eight players who are only two shots back on five under par.

Four-time major winner Ernie Els, who has struggled with the yips since having to give up his belly putter, is one-under par, while Brandon Stone - a winner at the South Africa Open last weekend - is two under.

George Coetzee, the winner in 2014, is level par as he continues to recover from an ankle injury that brought a premature end to his 2015 season in August.