Ireland’s Kevin Phelan carried on from where he left off last week by carding an opening 67 to claim a share of the lead in the Africa Open at East London Golf Club – but Yorkshire duo John Parry and Matthew Fitzpatrick are hot on his trail.
Phelan, who finished joint second behind Andy Sullivan in the Joburg Open on Sunday, carded six birdies and one bogey to finish alongside England’s Matt Ford on five under par. He defied the blustery conditions to fire five birdies and no bogeys in a flawless round and finished a shot ahead of compatriots David Howell, Richard Bland and Harrogate’s Parry as well as South African Neil Schietekat and Spain’s Eduardo de la Riva.
Fitzpatrick, from Sheffield, is a shot further back.
Sullivan’s bid for a third European Tour title in South Africa in the space of nine weeks got off to a slow start, the 27-year-old having to settle for a 72 after carding five birdies and five bogeys.
Phelan made the cut in the 2013 US Open while still an amateur and won two points out of three in the Walker Cup later that year before turning professional and claiming his card at the qualifying school.
The 24-year-old could only finish 129th on the Race to Dubai last season but has made an excellent start to 2015, a closing 66 at Royal Johannesburg on Sunday giving him a share of second with four players, including former Ryder Cup star Howell.
Speaking about his 67, Phelan said: “I was delighted with how I finished last week and it’s nice to carry it on to this week. Conditions were completely different to last week but it’s nice to play well.
“I’m quite used to playing in the wind but it was a completely different course (yesterday) than it was in the practice rounds. There was almost no point playing practice rounds but my caddie did a good job with the yardages so we were well prepared.”
England’s Oliver Fisher, who lost in a play-off to Thomas Aiken 12 months ago, carded an opening 72 that was matched by European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke.
n World No 1 Rory McIlroy endured a rollercoaster opening round in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
McIlroy carded three birdies and an eagle in the space of five holes on his back nine, but also recorded four bogeys and a double bogey to return a one-over-par 73.
That was seven shots off the clubhouse lead set by American Ryan Moore.