18 March 2022: James Hart du Preez announced himself on the DP World Tour in spectacular style as he carded a 63 to take a one-shot lead after the first day of the 2022 Steyn City Championship. Shubhankar Sharma opened with a modest 69, fuelled by a hattrick of birdies from the second hole.
The huge-hitting South African prompted talk of a 59 when he reached 11 under with two holes to play and despite a bogey-bogey finish, he ended the day at nine under, one shot clear of his countrymen Jaco Ahlers and Shaun Norris and Italian Nino Bertasio.
Any sub-60 round would not have taken its place in the history books due to preferred lies being played after heavy rain at The Club at Steyn City recently, but at six foot and nine inches tall and with remarkable distance off the tee, Du Preez did not need to reach the magic number to make a big impression.
Having made four cuts from his 12 DP World Tour starts so far, the 26-year-old arrived in Johannesburg under the radar, but there is no doubt all eyes will now be on him on home soil.
But he was philosophical on the idea of what true pressure is after all that has gone on in the world in the past two years and recent weeks.
“There’s a lot more pressureful situations in the world than playing golf,” he said. “With everything that’s happening in the world at the moment, for us to be here playing on a fantastic course, shooting 59 is not pressure. There’s a lot more going on, I was just having fun.
“I think when I missed the birdie putt from off the green at 17 (the eighth) I knew the chances of 59 – it’s weird to think about shooting 59 on the course – but when that missed I think a bit of the focus lapsed.
“Golf is so difficult that when you have days like this you don’t question why they happen, you don’t question what you’re doing, you just carry on and enjoy it.
“Although it was in my head, it wasn’t necessarily something that I realistically thought of, I was just trying to take it shot-for-shot and keep making good decisions.
“Food’s going to taste pretty good tonight after a round like this, tomorrow is just another opportunity to play well, make good decisions and enjoy the course.”
Du Preez got off to the perfect start with an eagle on the par-five tenth and he made another on the 16th, sandwiching birdies on the 11th and 13th, to turn in 30.
With everything that’s happening in the world at the moment, for us to be here playing on a fantastic course, shooting 59 is not pressure
Some stunning iron play on the front nine then sent him flying up the leaderboard as he put an approach to six feet at the second and similar range at the fourth.
A tee-shot to 12 feet at the fifth was followed by a smart pitch on the next and when he left himself ten feet at the seventh, he led by three.
Talk of 59 was silenced as he three-putted from just off the green at the eighth and while he also dropped a shot at the next, he led by one after firing the lowest round of his DP World Tour career by two shots.
Bertasio picked up shots on the tenth, 11th, 13th and 15th before further gains on the second and fifth put him in a share of the lead.
He put his approach to very close range at the seventh to lead on his own but he soon had Norris for company.
The home favourite birdied the tenth and 12th and then made a hat-trick from the 15th to turn in 31.
Another gain came at the second before he holed from 15 feet at the sixth and then made a 30-footer on the ninth to join the lead.
Five-time DP World Tour winner George Coetzee was in the five-strong group at seven under after carding an eagle, six birdies and a bogey – a feat matched by Swede Sebastian Soderberg.
Cotezee’s fellow South African Ruan de Smidt was bogey-free in his 65, while Frenchman Romain Langasque made nine birdies and Dutchman Darius van Driel carded eight.
Dane Niklas Nørgaard Møller was at six under alongside South Africans Dean Burmester, CJ du Plessis, Hennie du Plessis, Wilco Nienaber, Daniel van Tonder and MJ Viljoen, with 11 home players in the top 16.