Golf 25.2.2017 03:37 pm

Rain wreaks havoc as Joburg Open has to be shortened

It's river, instead of a green. Photo: Petri Oeschger/Gallo Images.

It's river, instead of a green. Photo: Petri Oeschger/Gallo Images.

For the first time in its history, the tournament will have to be shortened to a 54-hole event as the course is drenched.

2017 will be remembered as the wettest year yet for the Joburg Open as the third round was almost entirely washed out at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Saturday, forcing the tournament to become a 54-hole event for the first time in its history.

The tournament traditionally has had brief interruptions from typical Highveld thunderstorms since its inception in 2007, but the continuous rain of the last week has been unprecedented and, when a thunderstorm struck at 12.58pm on Saturday, the course quickly became waterlogged, such that the day’s play was called off just after 2pm.

When play does resume on Sunday, South Africa’s Darren Fichardt and Englishman Paul Waring will be tied for the lead on 11-under-par, with Jacques Kruyswijk and Dean Burmester a stroke behind.

Defending champion Haydn Porteous is alongside Swedish rookie Anton Karlsson, Welshman Stuart Manley, England’s Aaron Rai, American Paul Peterson and Spain’s Pep Angles on nine-under-par.

None of those golfers had managed to get out on to the course on Saturday, and neither had the group on eight-under-par – Scotsman David Drysdale and South Africans Merrick Bremner, Keenan Davidse, Dylan Frittelli and Brandon Stone.

When play was called off on Saturday, China’s Haotong Li, Englishman Garrick Porteous, South Africa’s Andre de Decker, Garth Mulroy and George Coetzee, Swede Magnus A. Carlsson, Scotland’s David Law and Justin Hicks of the United States had all climbed to seven-under-par.

Coetzee, who won the Joburg Open in 2014, had just eagled the 472-metre first hole of the East Course when play was stopped.

Richard Sterne, who won the title in 2008 and 2013, had birdied the last hole on the East Course to complete his second round and make the cut on the number earlier on Saturday morning, and he kept climbing the leaderboard as he went through 10 holes in two-under to reach six-under-par for the tournament.

Thomas Aiken had birdied the last two holes on the East Course on Saturday morning to make the cut and was also on six-under-par, although he had only played three holes in the third round. Graeme Storm, the SA Open champion, was on the same score.

Jaco van Zyl, one of the pre-tournament favourites, was seven off the pace on four-under, while some of the notable golfers who missed the cut are Dawie van der Walt, Keith Horne, Trevor Immelman, Jacques Blaauw, YE Yang, James Kingston and Darren Clarke.

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