Jun 20, 2018: Wilco Nienaber led the way in qualifying for the match play stage of The 123rd Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links today.
Indian golfers had a rough ride. Rayhan Thomas, Kshitij Kaul and Aadil Bedi worked hard through the first two rounds but failed to make the match play draw.
Rayhan Thomas scored 73 and 77 to finish at 9-over 150, three strokes shy of the cut, projected to fall at 6-over. Aadil Bedi produced a mirror image of Rayhan, shooting 77 and 73 in his two rounds. Kshitij Kaul shot 77 and 75 to get through the 36 holes at 11-over.
On the historic championship’s first visit to the renowned North East links courses, Nienaber became the first South African to lead the qualifying stage since it was introduced in 1983. The 18-year-old who lost out in a play-off to Nick Poppleton at the Brabazon Trophy earlier this month, carded four birdies on his homeward nine for a four-under-par 67 at the Balgownie Links to move to eight-under-par, two strokes clear of Viktor Hovland from Norway who recorded a five-under-par 65 at Murcar Links.
Hovland, the highest-ranked player in the field, at fifth in the World Amateur Golf RankingTM, eagled the par four 11th at Murcar and picked up another five birdies in an excellent display of putting but was held back by bogeys on the first and last.
Canadian Sam Meek was in contention to finish as leading qualifier when he stood at six-under coming down the last at Murcar but in trying to drive the green at the 369-yard par four the 19-year-old found a greenside bunker from where he took two to escape, with his second clearing the green and going out of bounds, resulting in a treble bogey seven. The 19-year-old finished third on three-under-par.
In a truly international leaderboard, Nienaber’s countryman Matt Saulez finished fourth on two-under-par while the Australian pair of Kyle Michel and Blake Collyer were a shot behind. On the same mark was the leading English qualifier Harry Hall and his compatriot Ben Hutchinson was on level par. Euan McIntosh continued his fine form to finish as the leading Scot on two-over-par alongside the St Andrews Links Trophy champion John Murphy from Ireland.
Walker Cup player Matthew Jordan, ranked seventh in the world, finished on three-over-par to qualify for the match play stage.
The cut for the championship fell on six-over-par with 77 players qualifying.